Tag Archives: red fox

Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography for only £4999

One of the juvenile snow monkeys of the Jigokudani Valley photographed on the NaturesLens Japan in Winter Photography Holiday

We have an offer that might entice you to join our Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday in February 2019; this is early-bird pricing for a single-occupancy room … you can book a place for £4999 each instead of £5249! We’ve managed to lower the pricing due to speaking with hotels & renegotiating our rates for rooms – & we’re passing those savings on to our clients.

You can join us & spend time with the gorgeous snow monkeys as shown in this post, also several days with the red-crowned cranes & the whooper swans, & four days focussed on stellers sea eagles & white-tailed sea eagles on our six boat trips & also at a couple of other locations.

A young snow monkey of the Jigokudani Valley photographed on the NaturesLens Japanese Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

You can book now & hold your place with 20% deposit only! That is £1000 now, with the balance due in November 2018.

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Winter Wildlife of Japan – the Guide’s perspective

Perched on one of the pack ice icebergs, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

I was excited when I was asked to co-guide the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan photography holiday. Japan is a country I’ve often thought of visiting, intrigued by the culture &, of course, the wildlife. How big a culture shock would it be? The holiday is primarily based on the Northern-most island, Hokkaido, which is very rural & nothing like the famous image of Japan as a land of teeming masses & neon signs.

There are gently rolling hills, extensive flatlands, & mountains, all snow-covered in February. The people are incredibly friendly & the accommodation clean & welcoming. Of course, there are cultural differences. You need to be a bit adventurous with the food; full of taste & always immaculately presented. A science degree & operator’s manual is required to ‘fully appreciate’ the WC! Not to forget the onsen – hot bath – one of life’s sublime pleasures after a day out in the cold.

One of Hokkaido's red crowned cranes flies overhead photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

The first port of call for two nights was the Tsurui area, with the focus on the Red-Crowned Cranes. An early start was needed to bag a good place on the Otowa Bridge to glimpse the birds at roost in the river & flying off for the day searching for food in the surrounding fields.

The famous red crowned cranes roost photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

The local farmers see the cranes as a considerable asset & manage their land to ensure the cranes’ survival.

A pair of red crowned cranes performing their courtship dance photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Close up detail of one of the red crowned cranes of Hokkaido photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

After a late & hearty breakfast, we visited the Ito Tancho Crane Sanctuary where there were hundreds of the birds. We were able to capture them close up & displaying typical societal behaviour, including the ‘dancing’, an attempt to establish status in the crowd. Moving on from Tsurui, we paid a passing visit to the Akan International Crane Centre, which presented further opportunities to capture the cranes in a different environment, & to visit the interpretative centre.

A short drive further brought us to our next stop & another cultural assault on the senses. What an excellent hotel; the rooms are a cross between Western & Japanese traditional style, with all mod-cons but the beds lower to the ground. The food was a masterful display of Japanese catering at its best. The hotel lobby has fire pits for warmth & a full height/width window looking out on the adjacent river valley where wildlife abounds. A Blakiston’s Fish Owl visits each evening & other wildlife observed included fox, stoat, Eurasian Jay, Eurasian Nuthatch, Eurasian Blackcap, & Brown-eared Bulbul, all in about half an hour. Our photographic destination was Lake Kussharo to seek out the Whooper Swans.  They proved a little elusive but we did successfully track them down. We also paid a visit to the scenic Lake Mashu, a caldera lake high in the mountains.

Hokkado's whooper swans of Lake Kussharo, a caldera lake in a snowy landscape photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Moving on, we headed for Rausu on the Northwest peninsular of Hokkaido, for what, for many, was the avian highlight of the trip. The sea eagles, both Stellers & White-Tailed.

Stretching for the pick up, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles over the waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Our base was another Daiichi with a pleasing choice of indoor & outdoor onsen.

Silhouetted at sunrise, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles grabs a fish from the ciy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Early starts were again the order of the day to meet up with our wildlife cruise boat. This was preceded by a rapid trip to the convenience store for breakfast essentials, including (you’d better believe it) cans of hot coffee. Weird but very welcome, given the temperature of -11°C with a windchill down to -23°C! The boat, though, has a warm cabin to retreat to for respite.

Wings out stretched, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles soars over the icy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

For the next three days, we were out in local waters for about 5 hours each morning. We were treated to fishing displays by the Steller’s Sea Eagle & White-tailed Sea Eagle at sea, at sunrise, on pancake ice in the harbour, & on drift ice further out to sea. The birds were so close to the boat that a medium length lens was sufficient. The portrait image of the Steller on the sea ice is uncropped!

Making off with a fish, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles flies above the pack ice of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday One of the Steller's Sea Eagles stood on the pack ice of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday One of the White tailed Sea Eagles grabs a fish from the icy waters of the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Perched on one of the pack ice icebergs, one of the Steller's Sea Eagles photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An unexpected bonus was a small pod of orca transiting south in search of food. The boat crew go to great lengths to get their passengers close to the action.

An orca swimming off the coast of Rausu in the Sea of Okhotsk photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Heading a little further south, we took in an area on the south-east of the island for a day to catch both types of eagle & Black-eared Kites as they scrabbled for the daily feed of frozen fish. The eagles command the frozen surface & jealously guard the fish. However, the kites are good scavengers & successfully get their share. The eagles stomp around the ice looking for food, providing an opportunity for unusual images. We also got lucky with visits from 4 foxes.

One of the Steller's Sea Eagles creeps in a comedic fashion over the surface of a frozen lake photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography HolidayA black eared kite soars above the eagle feeding site photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Having stolen some of the eagle's fish, one of Hokkaido's red foxes beats a hasty retreat photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Leaving Hokkaido, we flew to Tokyo for a night before the drive north-west to the Nagano area to photograph the Snow Monkeys at Yudanaka. The hotel is right at the start of the trail up to the monkeys, & is traditional. This meant tatami mats on the room floor & sleeping on a futon – an unusual concept, but I slept well. The host was attentive & provided still more sumptuous food at each meal. Visiting the monkeys in their thermal spa involves a half hour walk uphill. Not steep but ice spikes needed to maintain a sound footing,

Resting in a pool surrounded by snow, one of Japan's famous snow monkeys bathes in the thermal waters photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Searching for food in the snow, one of Japan's famous snow monkeys photographed during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

It’s possible to get very close to the monkeys, correctly known as the Japanese Macaque. But like many primates, they will take any opportunity to explore bags, especially if they can sense food! Portraits are the order of the day, with other opportunities to capture family behaviour & experiment with high key imagery.

That was it. Almost two weeks of excellent wildlife images, a new culture, excellent food & good company.

Did I enjoy it? Well, let’s say that I am really looking forward to going back in 2019.

Why not join us & experience for yourself the beauty of Japan’s culture & wildlife?

Photograph the Winter Wildlife of Japan for yourself

To photograph the charismatic winter wildlife of Japan for yourself, join David Miles & Ian Roberts, members of the NaturesLens guiding team, in Japan during February 2019 for a trip lasting 13 nights; this photography holiday will offer you the opportunity to capture images of the red-crowned crane, snow monkey, steller’s sea eagle, white tailed sea eagle, whooper swan, plus more; the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday is offered on a half board, non-shared room basis, & costs typically £5249 per participant, but there are several early-bird places available priced at £4999.

All the details of the  Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday are available on the dedicated event page.

Part 2 of Peter’s graphical review of our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

A White Tailed Sea Eagle flies over the frozen seas outside Rausu this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

Peter sent us so many fabulous images from the boat trips taken during our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday that we had to dedicate an entire blog post to them.

A Steller's Sea Eagle flies away having successfully grabbed a fish from the Rausu seas - this image was captured on the Island of Hokkaido during the NaturesLens Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Continue reading

An’s graphical review of our Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An exceptionally beautiful Stellers sea eagle poses on a outcrop of frozen pack ice located on the coast of Rausu captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday

An & her husband Peter joined us on our Winter Wildlife of Japan photography holiday last year. Below are some of the images that she kindly sent to us to share…

One of the reasons for visiting Hokkaido is to witness the dance of the Red-Crowned Cranes. An was lucky enough to be able to isolate this pair of cranes as they performed their ritual dance. I love this image as it reminds me of a couple of prima ballerinas.

A pair of beautiful red crowned cranes performing their dance in the snow captured NaturesLens during the Winter Wildlife of Japan Photography Holiday Continue reading

Some time spent with the Wildcats, Eagles & Lynx of Spain

The young female Iberian lynx image captured during a NaturesLens Wildcat, Eagles & Iberian Lynx of Spain Photography Holiday

During December 2017, I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Wildcats, Eagles & Lynx of Spain; this was preparation for a trip that we were researching to add to our portfolio.  Once again, I visited Spain in the hope of capturing some images of the elusive Iberian lynx. This wasn’t the first time that we have attempted to launch a photography trip focussed on these subjects. My initial attempt was back in January 2016, but unfortunately, it was unsuccessful for a variety of reasons, not least the lack of sightings.

I arrived in Sierra Morena hoping to be lucky as the reports I had been receiving was that lynx had been spotted in the areas on a regular basis. I arrived too late to go into the lynx hide so spent the afternoon chatting with my host about the species I hoped to photograph to see if we could turn this into a potential photography tour for the guests of NaturesLens – over the next few hours, the plan for the Wildcats, Eagles & Lynx of Spain was formed.

Our host has been working on his lynx project for some years & the area is now home to a more Iberian lynx than Doñana National Park with excellent, regular sightings.

The following morning, I rose early to visit the Imperial Spanish Eagle hide. As soon as the sun rose, to my surprise, a Golden Eagle appeared on the large rock to my right. I watched this magnificent raptor feed for a short while, to allow it to settle before I started taking images.

Perched on a rock, a Golden Eagle lit by the dawn light image captured during a NaturesLens Wildcat, Eagles & Iberian Lynx of Spain Photography Holiday Continue reading

European Bison, one of the main Białowieża species

A European Bison strides through the snow typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

Elsewhere, we have covered the wide variety of bird species that you might encounter on the Polish Winter Wildlife Tour, including Goshawks, Buzzards White-Tailed Sea Eagles & Woodpeckers, in addition to the days spent in hides, two days are spent traversing the Białowieża Forest, locating & photographing the European Bison, that call Białowieża home.

Żubry w Puszczy Białowieskiej, 2011

One of the European Bison within the snowy environs of the Białowieża Forest typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday A European Bison strides through the snow typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday One of the European Bison of the Białowieża Forest typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

The other mammal that is commonly seen & can be photographed within Białowieża, is the Red Fox, it can often be found near to the feeding sites, as these beautiful creatures want to scavenge food that is available.

A red fox at one of the hide feeding sites located near the Białowieża Forest typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday One of the red foxes of the Białowieża Forest typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday One of the beautiful red foxes of the Białowieża Forest typical of the type of image that may be captured on the NaturesLens Poland’s Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday

DO YOU WANT TO CAPTURE IMAGES OF THE POLISH WILDLIFE FOR YOURSELF?

We have a photography tour that is to be run at the end of January 2018, this is an opportunity for you to undertake photography of the wildlife of the Białowieża Forest, including the European Bison, for yourself; the photography holiday costs £1499 each participant, this price excludes air travel to Warsaw itself – all ground transportation from Warsaw & back, & to & from shoot locations, accommodation & guidance/tuition is included, the dates for the NaturesLens Polish Winter Wildlife Photography Holiday are January 21 – 28, 2018.

To hold a place on the trip, we only require a 20% deposit from you, with the balance due 12 weeks prior to the trip taking place.

David, one of our clients, captured these images of the Birds of Spain in April

Golden Eagle photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

Back in April, David, one of our clients, not one of our leaders, visited our latest location for bird photography in Sierra Morena, Spain. The site offered the opportunity to capture images of different bird species from those on our Birds of Calera tour such as Crossbills & the majestic Golden Eagle.

Common Crossbill Drinking photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain Golden Eagle photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the trip was when the lucky occupants of one of the hides witnessed a Golden Eagle fighting with a fox! This is just one image from that memorable encounter.

Golden Eagle and Red Fox Fighting photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain A Hoopoe emerging from it's nest photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

David told us “Once again the trip was very well arranged. The permanent hides were the best I have ever used. They were all brick built & had toilets while the temporary ones were very large dome hides with artificial turf floors. Thanks once again for another enjoyable trip.”

A female House Sparrow drinking photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain One of the Little Owls found in the area & photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain A Little Ringed Plover with food photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

The unexpected visits by the red fox certainly made this trip rather special & one to remember.

One of the Red Foxes that scavenge food from the Eagle hides photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain A Woodchat Shrike photographed on one of the pair of NaturesLens Wildlife Photography Holidays to capture images of the Birds of Spain

WOULD YOU LIKE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE BIRDS OF SPAIN FOR YOURSELF IN 2018?

For 2018, NaturesLens have already planned a duo of Spanish Bird Photography Holidays that can be joined together to form one seamless opportunity to add a plethora of photos of the birds of Spain to your portfolio – or you can attend the separate events individually – the two events are the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday followed the next week by Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday.

Starting with the Spanish Raptors Photography Holiday during mid-April – specifically starting on April 13 & ending on April 20, 2018 – to be led by Sean Weekly for NaturesLens, then the amazing Spanish Birds of Calera Photography Holiday starts on April 21 & ends on April 29, 2018, this trip is being led by … Sean Weekly … so you’ll have his company, photographic tuition & guidance for the whole fortnight.

Some of Jayne’s images from our Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography Holiday

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Barks In The Air After Successfully Dragging A Fish From The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

The moment we see the last client off when we’ve ended one of our photography holidays, usually sees us both breathe a sigh of relief, & the end of the recent Alaska Photography Holiday was no different; that point has normally been reached only by planning over a period of several years, by having planned contingency plans & contingency plans for contingency plans; at that juncture, we can perform the final few tasks to wrap the tour up, one of these is to send an email thanking our clients for their participation & inviting them to contribute some images that they captured whilst away with us, to our blog – we love showing off what clients achieve as we feel it is a good measure for other clients to see what can be captured in the relatively short time frame of one of our holidays.

So when our clients send in images or thank us via email we beam from cheek to cheek – it’s even more awesome when we receive a testimonial like this, from Jayne, regarding our Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography Holiday:

“Back home after a fabulous 10 days in Alaska. Been up for about 30 hours so it’s going to be an early night but just wanted to say anyone thinking about a wildlife photographic holiday I can’t recommend NaturesLens highly enough. Every detail is covered to make sure we have the best photographic opportunities & we always have a great laugh together. Thank you David Miles & Pui Hang Miles for everything you do.”

Jayne first published a blog posting of her own, with her recollections of the trip, you can read that blog posting here, then she sent us a selection of different images again, also of the Alaskan Bald Eagles, for us to publish on our blog – so here are those images:

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Barks In The Air After Successfully Dragging A Fish From The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

As Jayne mentions on her own blog posting, the main focus of our Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography Holiday is, rather obviously, the Bald Eagles & so these first photos show the varied behaviour of these amazing birds – all up & down the Chilkat valley & the river that has carved it’s course through the mountains, eagles will be found; they fish the chumming salmon from the river & feast on the bloated fish on the banks of the frozen river, upon landing a fish or ‘liberating’ it from another bird, the adult bald eagles typically throw their head back & bark into the air, showing their dominance & announcing that they are the ‘top of the tree’.

A Pair Of Alaskan Bald Eagles Jostle Over A Fish In The Shallows Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Trio Of Alaskan Bald Eagles Squabble Over A Fish In A Tributary Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Typically this dominance is short lived, other eagles will swoop in & attempt, in the case of the juvenile eagles, to intimidate the current fish-holder off the fish via a series of low-level swoops; in the case of the adult versus adult, the swoops are far more brutal, often resulting in contact & one bird being slammed to the ground.

It is not just eagle versus eagle contact that the fish-holder has to contend with, ravens constantly dot the river banks waiting to challenge for scraps of fish.

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Comes In To Land Upstream From Haines Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday An Alaskan Bald Eagle Eats A Fish Whilst Being Mobbed By Ravens On A Bank Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday An Alaskan Bald Eagle Banks In The Cold Air Of The Alaskan Winter Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Often times, the bald eagle will become so annoyed with the developing situation that he will take off with the fish & fly elsewhere to finish the meal.

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Spreads It's Wings To Slow It's Flight On A Frozen Bank Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Often times, between meals or whilst waiting for another eagle to land a fish, the eagles perch & pose, fly around & land, all on washed up trees & drift wood that has been swept downstream by the Chilkat river.

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Feeds On A Fish In The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday An Alaskan Bald Eagle Glides Through The Cold Air Of The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday An Alaskan Bald Eagle Perched On A Fallen Tree Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Like many of our photography holidays that mention a specific species in the title, the bald eagles were the main focus of the NaturesLens Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography Holiday, but many other species were spotted in the Chilkat Eagle Reserve & two further days allow participants to expand their portfolio out to further topics or species.

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Crows In The Air Perched On A Tree Close To One Of The Viewing Points Along The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Many of our clients produce calendars or photo books after a trip & a variety of images make these ‘pop’. So for one day, the group was offered the chance to head across the border into British Columbia & the Yukon for some high altitude landscape photography.

The Stunning British Columbian Mountains Soared Towards The Clouds Just Across The Border Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

For another couple of days, Jayne & several others took the opportunity to visit the Kroschel Wildlife Centre, this is not a game farm like many of the ‘wildlife centres’ in the USA are, the centre takes in orphaned or injured animals from across Alaska, the owner, Steve, frequently gets calls from vets all over Alaska & is asked if he can rehome a certain species. The centre is ‘home’ to a wide variety of animals including bear, wolverine, lynx, porcupine, red fox & wolves, some of which are shown in images, captured by Jayne, below:

A Lynx Yawning After Waking From It's Slumber At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Porcupine Caught In A Fall Of Snow At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday One Of The Rescued Snowy Owls Of The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Rescued Grizzly Bear Orphan Who Now Lives At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Rescued Alaskan Red Fox Who Now Calls The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Home Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Rescued Alaskan Red Fox Demonstrates It's Inquisitive Nature Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Orphaned Alaskan Wolf Who Now Calls The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Home Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography HolidayWhilst 2017 is too busy to prompt a return to the Chilkat Valley of Alaska & the wonderful wildlife that exists within this harsh environment, NaturesLens will be returning to Haines in 2018 or 2019 – if you would like to join us on for another Alaskan Photography Holiday, send us a message & we will add you to a list of interested clients.

An Alaskan Bald Eagle Soars In The Wintery Air Against The Backdrop Of The Mountains And Forests Of The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Ian’s images of the Bald Eagles of Alaska

The Silhouette Of A Soaring Bald Eagle Over The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Late November 2016 saw the inaugural NaturesLens Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography Holiday to South East Alaska to photograph the Bald Eagle ‘Council’. The ‘Council’ is the annual gathering of thousands of Bald Eagles on the shores of the Chilkat River to feed up for Winter on the late run of Chum or ‘Dog’ Salmon. NaturesLens based the photography holiday in Haines, a small town on the Alaskan coast – & it would be difficult to find a friendlier place.

A Bald Eagle Perched In One Of The Trees That Line The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

As usual David & PN had sorted out all the travel & accommodation detail &, in addition to their presence, we enjoyed the company of 2 local guides, Joe & Thomas, both of whom know the area intimately & are accomplished photographers in their own right. The omens were therefore well set for finding the best sites for capturing images of the main subject for this holiday, the Bald Eagles of Alaska.

The Famous Alaskan Passage Lighthouse That Greets Those Who Travel Up To Haines By Ferry Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

The scenery of the Alaskan ‘panhandle’ is the stunning product of glaciation – high snow-covered mountains & deep, wide valleys. We journeyed in from Juneau by ferry, which enabled us to take in the scenery at a leisurely pace & also to acclimatise to the temperatures (cold or, alternatively, bloody freezing, if you choose to go on deck at 0∘C when travelling at 15 knots). For much of the journey, we were glad to be scenery peepers from the comfort of the lounge!

The Silhouette Of A Soaring Bald Eagle Over The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Bald Eagle Soars Through The Wintery Air Of The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A juvenile bald eagle attempts to steal a fish from an adult bald eagle - on the right - the juveniles go through several distinct moults prior to adulthood - photographed on the NaturesLens Bald Eagles of Alaska Photography HolidayA Quintet Of Trumpeter Swans, These Are Also Commonly Found In The Bald Eagle Preserve Of The Chilkat Valley Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

There’s not a lot of usable daylight in Alaska in November so, having breakfasted in our comfortable apartment rooms, we usually set out soon after 7am to get to the prime Bald Eagle viewing sites. We became intimately familiar with the ‘pull-outs’ on the Highway North West of Haines. One because it was a good starting site & a second because it had a loo (don’t get too excited – no water, no heating, no warm seat (unless you got in fast after the last occupant!)).

The daily morning challenge became to balance high ISO against available light to get images which were not too grainy, but in which the birds were sharp. Later as the light improved, the sites were beautifully side lit by sunrise, leading to some stunning golden tinged imagery. The hunt was always on for the iconic images – low flying over the river with wing-tip grazing the water, the mid-air ‘L’ shape, & the fights over fish. We moved around freely, picking sites down at water level or alternatively high on the bank to get the best vantage points. There was sufficient space for everyone, even when organised groups converged with the many independent photographers on a particular highlight.

A Pair Of Trumpeter Swans Attempt A Take Off From The Chilly Waters Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Portrait Of One Of The Chilkat Valley Bald Eagles Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Pair Of Bald Eagle Squabble Over A Fish In The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

The weather varied from dry & bright to overcast to falling snow. The latter was particularly challenging as, whilst it gave us atmospheric images, autofocus tended to lock onto the snowflakes rather than the birds. On the other hand, we had some star birds that took up a stance in a nearby tree at an accessible height, & were very tolerant of the surrounding throng on cameras.

As the good light was generally over by 2pm (it was dark by 4pm), lunch was usually a snack & the evening meal was taken early in keeping with American custom.

It was off-peak season in Haines so the choice of eateries was limited but nonetheless no disappointment. Of course, the cuisine leaned towards archetypal American influenced international, but a local Bakery became a firm favourite with both a Thai & American menu. The fact that it’s run by a crazy, fun Thai lady was the added bonus. We were there for the Thanksgiving weekend – a family holiday with most of the shops closed. Nevertheless, the Bakery whipped up a takeaway Thanksgiving Supper for us, & the hotel kindly let us use a Conference Room so we could sit down together. A further highlight for the connoisseur of international imbibition, was the micro-brewery right next door to the hotel. A peculiarity of local licensing laws was that it could not operate as a bar; however, it was permitted to allow ‘tasting’ so long as no-one consumed more than the equivalent of 3 pints in any 12 hour period! There’s also a gin distillery but we never quite made it that far.

A Bald Eagle Touches The Tips Of One Wing In The Frozen Waters Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday A Bald Eagle Flies Gracefully Above The Waters Of The Chilkat River Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday Eyes Focused On Target, The Bald Eagle Is A Formidable Bird When In Flight Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

The photography was not all about bald eagles though; some of the group took the opportunity to travel over the border into Canada & the Yukon interior where there was plenty of opportunity for landscapes & cloudscapes, & we even came across 3 moose, although the grab shots did not do them justice.

The Snowscapes Of British Columbia, Located Just A Few Miles Over The Border From The Normal Locations That We Made Use Of Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

There is also the Kroschel Wildlife Sanctuary, with examples of Alaskan fauna such as Red Fox, Grizzly Bear, Wolverine, Wolf, Pine Marten & Silver Fox. The animals are all orphans or rescue who would otherwise not have had a future. They live in large free-range enclosures & are habituated to their handler, but other than that they are ‘wild’ & many have been stars in wildlife documentaries. The enclosures are constructed to facilitate photography & this was a good opportunity to get close to animals that are either seldom seen or only from afar.

A Red Tailed Hawk Who Now Lives At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday One Of The Pine Martins Who Are Now Resident At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday Jpg An Orphaned Red Fox, Named Isis, Who Now Lives At The Kroschel Wildlife Centre Photographed On The NaturesLens Bald Eagles Of Alaska Photography Holiday

Our departure day was due to include half a day’s photography before a charter flight out to Juneau. However, an imminent storm meant we were called urgently to the airport & managed to ‘escape’ shortly before the weather arrived, dumping over a foot of snow.

I mentioned this was the inaugural Bald Eagles of Alaska photography tour, the implication being that there will be others. David & PN have confirmed this, although the dates are not yet set. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in capturing these iconic birds, in a stunning location & a fun atmosphere, let them know.