When I moved to the Puget Sound region a decade ago, I had only seen the Aurora Borealis in photos, and considered it one of those once-in-a-lifetime awe-inspiring encounters that I would only experience vicariously. But, amazingly enough, the Northern Lights can be seen in Western Washington when certain conditions are met. When visible to the naked eye, they usually look like clouds at the horizon, most often white, but brighter than usual. Using long exposure on a camera with a tripod, photographers can capture the color of this magnetic disturbance in the atmosphere that our eyes can’t. And I've now "seen the light(s)"!
The wildest thing happened a week ago. I was making dinner in the kitchen, talking to my husband who was standing at the counter when we heard a tremendous amount of avian racket outside. Kevin looked out the living room window and saw a bald eagle take down a great blue heron mid-flight and land in the water. I ran out of the kitchen and we both watched through the windows as the eagle swam, using its wings to “freestyle” struggling to stay above water while it dragged the heron along underwater in its talons toward our beach.
My camera was upstairs, and once the eagle made it to shore, I ran to get it. I opened the bathroom window, popped out the screen and snapped a few hundred photos (sports mode) from there of the eagle eating its prey on the oyster bed just at the edge of our beach. I usually take wildlife photos through my windows since opening doors and windows almost always causes them to scatter, but I didn’t want glass in the way of this rare sight.
Great blue herons eat a fair number of critters eagles eat, and eagles usually only go for nestlings, though a local resident noted he’s been watching one pair of eagles hunt herons for the past few years, and they’re now teaching their juveniles to do so as well.
The eagle looked in my direction, but it stayed put, not wanting to leave its kill. Watching it stand atop the heron, and tear into it, spitting out feathers was like watching a nature documentary that spares nothing. When the eagle moved off as its mate approached, the heron sat up, and it was then that I realized the poor bird was alive while being consumed. Kevin, who was still in the living room watching, had to step away at this. But I kept on snapping, looking through my camera, thankful it served as a filter that gave me some distance as I became a documentarian of this disturbing yet fascinating moment in the circle of life.
I usually photograph sunsets, mountains, rainbows, gorgeous watery reflections, and wildlife in attractive poses because I live in a place abundant with natural beauty. But there is another side to life in paradise that involves violence. Violence necessary for survival which I as a human carnivore can blithely ignore since others kill and butcher meat for me. My only struggle is in following recipes.
I'm humbled and fortunate to have witnessed the food chain in action without even seeking it out.
I began blogging about "This or Something Better" in 2011 when my husband and I were discerning what came next in our lives, which turned out to be relocating to Puget Sound from our Native California. My older posts can be found here.