Text and Photographs By

Bob Paty

This article is dedicated to Gus Faulk. (1918-1993) As a volunteer for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service starting in 1984, he became an authority on the bald eagles on the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Known affectionately as the "Eagle Man," Gus was a valuable asset to biologists and laymen alike, gathering research information on the bald eagle.

Florida Bald Eagles

My friend raised his hand, following a few steps behind him I stopped. My view followed his extended finger to a dead tree approximately 100 yards. away. My eyes traveled to its upper branches, then came to rest on a magnificent sight. An adult bald eagle was perched on a high limb. The sunshine illuminated the bird like a spotlight. Its white head feathers gleamed in the sunlight and its piercing yellow eyes were focused upon us. I fully expected it to fly, however my friend whispered, telling me that the nest was nearby. As I raised my binoculars, my friend slowly shook his head. He removed a camera from his back pack and handed it to me. When I lifted the camera to my eyes and rotated the focus ring, what a spectacle! I tripped the camera's shutter.

I couldn't wait to see some of the photos I made that day when we visited the bald eagle's nest in the Tosohatchee State Reserve. What a disap-
pointment, I had visualized the picture of that eagle sitting on the limb looking like something from National Geographic, NOT! His camera had a 200 mm lens, the eagle looked a mile away and was blurred. I had so much to learn about photography.
With its piercing eyes and crown of white feathers, it's hard to dispute the position of the bald eagle as one of the most majestic birds in the United States and perhaps the world. Soaring on powerful wings it is so impressive that it has been subject of folklore for centuries. It is perhaps one of the most sought after subjects by nature photographers, and has definitely become one of mine.

Two passions were born on that day, about twenty years ago. First, my continuing infatuation with bald eagles, and second my love for nature and wildlife photography. Since that day my fascination with Florida bald eagles and photography of them has endured and will continue until a day I depart from this world.

This writing, however is not about photography, but interesting experiences in my observation of Florida bald eagles over the past two decades. One of the first things I discovered was how little information existed on the bald eagles in Florida. The Florida eagles have different feeding habits, different nesting cycles and are smaller than their northern cousins. This suggests it is a subspecies and practically nothing was available for study. This raised a question, why not find out for myself?

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