Skagit River Eagle Photography…& a January Swim In The River (Not Recommended)

Since returning to WA State at the beginning of the new year, after 10 years in sun, we’ve had to adjust to the colder new surrounding. It has been a fairly easy adjustment thanks to our electric blanket. We’ve made a choice to give ourselves one day off from computer work and sessions, each week, to regroup and explore the state no matter how cold it is outside. We decided to start a WA State Bucket List and we’ll try to post Blogs of our more scenic journeys. It is always an adventure with Some Like It Shot!

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It was a crisp January morning, when Holland, my dad, our friend Ken and myself packed into our cars and headed North to view the Skagit River Bald Eagle migration. This was our very 1st time viewing the migration. When we arrived the sun was just barely rising above the mountains, it was a mere 29 degrees outside. The light gleamed on frost, turning simple branches into a magical multicolored glitter wonderland.

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Ken was the first to set up. We brought two 100-400mm lenses so that we had a chance to photograph the magnificent birds a little closer than our 70-200mm lens could provide. Overall we are happy we did, the results wouldn’t have been the same.

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As soon as the rest of us reached the river we spotted our first Eagle of the morning soaring high above us. This was pretty amazing, we were there less than 5 minutes and already had our first sighting and photos.

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Not a minute later, Holland handed me his camera and said with a big grin, “I have an idea, take my picture!”. My immediate reaction was skepticism, Holland is not usually so eager to be photographed…and then I saw him hand his phone and keys to my dad. All I could think was “Oh great, what kind of IDEA does he have?!”. Then I saw it… a Rope Swing…a fire hose looking rope swing tied to a brittle frozen tree by the river, clearly not meant for winter adventures. Holland was already in Ranger mode (as I like to call it), he was determined and 99.9% self confident that he was going to get a photo of himself braving a rope swing over WA State’s 3rd fastest (and currently very cold) river. Ken & my dad didn’t think he would go through with it but I knew otherwise. I did everything in my power to stop him from attempting this and before any of us were ready to take photos he launched…, well, here’s how it went….

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With strange scream that didn’t quite fully resemble a word, but more of a loud grunt of defeat, Holland slipped off the frozen rope into the freezing cold river. On shore, we went in panic mode. It was a life or death moment waiting for him to surface and our hearts all skipped a beat. My dad looked up as he heard the water, not knowing that Holland launched. I felt the urge to run to the path and start my way down river just incase, and Ken was swift to set his camera down making his way to the steep bank.

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A little known fact about Holland: When he was an Army Ranger he completed several special op courses including Combat Dive School (A Special Forces School). The second I saw him swimming to shore I felt that he would be OK, if I tried to help him and in anyway got in the river myself I knew I would have no chance – I am a horrible swimmer and have a huge fear of water with currents (rightfully so). I was in limbo with what to do so I took photos while Ken & my dad linked arms and pulled him safely to shore where he stood steaming in the bitter cold asking if I was able to get any photos.

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There was a long moment of silence as Ken fished for his hat and gloves, while Holland let the moments that just passed sink in. He must have remembered my plea NOT to swing because it would ruin the day of photos having to take him to the hospital for hypothermia, because his next response in his most sincere tone was,  “It’s OK, I don’t need to dry off, just keep taking photos. Really, I am wearing special thermals that will dry fast. I’ll be fine!”

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I knew that wasn’t really an option…this southern CA surf boy clearly forgot the dangers of hypothermia in this cold weather. Just looking at the frost on the ground I knew that we needed to get him dry ASAP.

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With that, there was nothing more to do than laugh…and laugh…and laugh more. The entire day was weaved with giggle fits from us all, hard to believe that we witnessed such a terrifying dangerous idea and that he lived to laugh with us about it. I thought for sure my abs would be sculpted into a 6 pack by the end of the day with the amount of laughing we did. Ken & my dad headed to the next hot Eagle spot while I took Holland to get dry and warm. Holland sat in the car in nothing but fast drying thermals, with the heat on high, as we drove through the little town called Concrete looking for clothes. A grocery store provided his first fleece sweater donning “Concrete” across the front as a souvenir. Which was deemed “softer than any clothes he has ever worn” and we found a pair of second hand corduroys at a consignment shop. Quickly we met up to take photos of Eagles again. At first there was no luck, so I just admire the trees and moss in the morning sunlight.

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The sun eventually was too high to get a good shot of an Eagle so we decided to take a break and enjoy lunch at Annie’s Pizza Station and wait for the afternoon sun.

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Awaiting along a bridge looking for any action, out of know where an Eagle flew over us. We weren’t prepared fully but were excited for the photography part of our adventure to begin… Enjoy some photos from the afternoon – a day that I certainly won’t be able to forget and Holland won’t be able to live down. LOL. Enjoy with a few facts from baldeagleinfo.comSkagit029_WEB

The American Bald Eagle has a 70-90″ wingspan and over 7000 feather.

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Both male & female have white feather heads. It is the younger eagles that are all brown until about 4-5 years old.

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The female Bald Eagle is slightly larger than a male Bald Eagle.

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Photographer tip (thanks to Ken): Eagles tend to poop just before they take off. So, if you are waiting a long time for action and see one poo get your camera ready.

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Bald Eagles tend to stay in high branches on sunny days and have excellent eye sight to find food from way up high. If you want photos with Eagles closer to eye level then a foggy day will be a better photo op.

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Thanks for reading!! We love hearing about your reaction in the comments :)

Some like rope swings

Some like Bald Eagles

Some Like It Shot.

8 thoughts on “Skagit River Eagle Photography…& a January Swim In The River (Not Recommended)

  1. The pictures you have taken are wonderful. Glad you enjoyed the company of my brother, Ken. Can’t wait to meet you on the next visit to the Northwest.

  2. The photos of the eagles are stunning! The photos of Holland’s unexpected swim still puts my stomach in knots and not from laughing! I can appreciate that you all found the humor in this experience as you always do. I still have to say that it looks terrifying to me. Thank goodness for Holland’s Ranger training & skills.

    • Sue I am thankful for the training & skills too, believe me all I could think was that he could have died. A week later there was breaking news that a man fell in the river. The 2 people who helped him get out got medals of honor from the police dept with the quote “once the Skagit River takes a person it rarely gives them back”.

  3. I have to tell you how calm and cool (in all regards) Holland was through all this. Yeah, he was absolutely nuts for taking the rope swing, and I kept looking at Alisha to try to gauge, “Is he SERIOUS?”, and Alisha was already resigned that this was going down. And down he went.

    Once out of the water, Holland was probably the calmest of all of us. Alisha was in pragmatic wife mode and was spot-on to insist for the change of clothes while her Dad and I scouted ahead for eagle viewing points.

    Holland is a real-life Indiana Jones — who does his OWN stunts.

    • LOL maybe he’ll have to be Indiana Jones for Halloween one year just so I can do an artwork piece with him on a rope swing LOL!!! He definitely does his own stunts, and is usually the calmest :) You got to experience his wild side – a rare day that comes around once or so a year.

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