A Failed Quest for Gold – Golden Eagles that is

/, Birds, Coyotes, Davis County, Golden Eagles, Horned Larks, Utah/A Failed Quest for Gold – Golden Eagles that is

Clipped Golden EagleClipped Golden Eagle

If you have been following my blog for even a short while you know I bemoan the fact that Golden Eagles are a nemesis bird for me. It never, ever fails that when I have an opportunity to photograph Golden Eagles something always goes wrong. Bad light, no light, too far away, can’t lock on, too close, back lit, vibrations from the vehicle, obstructions in front of the bird, fog, snow, wires all over the place, a vehicle or person scares off the bird before a shot can be fired. Something always happens.

Yesterday wasn’t any different. I first saw a perched Golden Eagle yesterday in the shadow of a building on Antelope Island State Park. The sun was lighting up the background but the eagle was in the dark. When it did take off the few shots I got had stuff in front of the bird. Figures, right? I was too close any way because all the shots were clipped.

A back lit Golden Eagle pairA back lit Golden Eagle pair

I saw a second bird follow the first one in flight, it had been hidden below the hill. I could see where both eagles flew to and landed.

And of course when I could get close… the eagles were back lit and the background was a milky white sky. When they took off they had their backs to me. I wasn’t surprised. But it wasn’t over yet.

A pair of Golden Eagles on Lady Finger PointA pair of Golden Eagles on Lady Finger Point

There was another vehicle there, a rather noisy diesel pickup and thinking the truck might make the birds take flight in some decent light we went way around the rocks they were perched on and hoped they would fly our way.

No such luck, I had hoped they would fly south and the eagles flew north and landed on some rocks. With a decent light angle. Just too far away.

Well the guy in the pickup saw the eagles too and tried to walk up on them slowly. I knew the eagles would fly and hoped they would swing west into some beautiful light.

When they flew they went east and the light was cruddy. They landed near the visitor’s center but flew off again.

A Coyote with a Jackrabbit stolen from a Golden EagleA Coyote with a Jackrabbit stolen from a Golden Eagle

I saw where the pair of Golden Eagles went over the hill and we headed that way. One of the eagles had captured a jackrabbit and had coyotes in hot pursuit as it struggled to lift off and take flight, the second eagle was on the ground observing the action and of course I couldn’t get a clear shot of it because there were thick mullein stems obstructing the view. The Golden with the jackrabbit dropped its prey and one of the coyotes snatched it up and ran away with another coyote on its tail.

Coyote crossing the road with the Golden Eagle's preyCoyote crossing the road with the Golden Eagle’s prey

And do you think the light could be good on the coyote with the jackrabbit in its jaws? Nah. The photography gods weren’t smiling on me. Not a bit. Not even a little.

Golden Eagle and a Black-billed MagpieGolden Eagle and a Black-billed Magpie

The Golden Eagle that had been hidden in the mulleins lifted off and landed in front of us in good light. Not close though, that was simply asking too much. A Black-billed Magpie flew in to check out the eagle and the other eagle that was just outside of the frame. Out of nowhere more coyotes raced in towards the eagles, perhaps they thought the eagles had more prey for them to steal. They didn’t.

Golden Eagle pair after being chased by CoyotesGolden Eagle pair after being chased by Coyotes

And when the coyotes got close the Golden Eagles took off and all I got was a bunch of butt shots. Figures right? Good light, butt shots. Bad light and close shots.

The story doesn’t end there but the images I took of the eagles after this were even cruddier and I will just tell the story.

There was a third Golden Eagle that flew in when all the action was taking place and I saw where it flew to and we headed that way. It had to be high on a hill where the light wasn’t great, right?  And behind me (where the light was worse) I could see some coyote craziness going on. There must have been 8 or 9 coyotes running, chasing after each other while zig-zagging through the sagebrush on the side of the hill. They moved so quickly I really couldn’t get an accurate count of how many there were. In fact I have never seen such a frenzied coyote chase.

They ran up towards the ridge of the hill where the eagle sat on a rock but they didn’t get close enough to make that eagle fly. Still, I hoped the eagle would fly our way. Then out of no where an eagle flies up behind the perched bird and they both fly off. Too far away. Cruddy light angle. Not an image worth keeping. Again, I wasn’t surprised.

A January Horned LarkA January Horned Lark

I did get a little gold though when I took this Horned Lark image. Golden tones in the face and golden lichen on the boulder. A lovely consolation prize.

I won’t give up on the Goldens. One day it has to work out.


Life; as frustrating as it can be, is good.



  1. Humming Bird Lover February 1, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Hi! Better days are coming and knowing you!!! You will make it happen and very soon! I will send a good spell on them so you can get beautiful photo of them! My birds are gone again?? not even a song? Oh well we are to get a snow storm so they will be back?
    Have a great time shooting this coming week!! Love the story ,photo’s and your Golden colored Bird!!!!

  2. Utahbooklover January 31, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    A very entertaining post, like a clip from my favorite PBS series Nature. Thank you.

  3. Elephant's Child January 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Love (and envy) the images you have stored in your mental memory chip.

  4. Susan Stone January 30, 2015 at 10:14 am

    I feel for you with your difficulty getting good shots. And I love the facial expression and pose of the coyote that got the jackrabbit. It is clearly very happy and proud of itself. Also like your consolation prize.

  5. Mark Amershek January 30, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Mia – of course the Golden Eagles are a prize and difficult to attain. That is the way it is supposed to be. Getting a payoff with a Horned Lark is a complimentary prize from Mother Nature. Keeps you wanting to come back another day and try again. Best of luck!

  6. Glen Fox January 30, 2015 at 6:18 am

    Mia, that was quite an adventure. Yes it was a disappointment, but a special time. I know you don’t like to do much post-processing, but with a little work, I think you could turn some of those shots into something even you could live with. ..especially the “back-lit pairs”. I dream of seeing this species at an appropriate distance. You live in an amazing place… I know you appreciate and cherish that. I hope I can visit it one day soon!

    Keep at it ..life is good. Glen

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