The Bald Eagles of Llano


As a lot of people in central Texas are aware, there is has been a nesting pair of  Bald Eagles residing about seven miles outside of town annually for the last approximately eleven years or.  The traffic would get tied up frequently along the highway by people wanting to view then, so the Texas Highway Department graded an area along the road to allow parking.  It has been a popular spot through the years for bird watchers and photographers.

Earlier this year the huge nest was blown down in a storm.  Those nests are huge, weighing up to a ton, so that was quite a loss for the eagles.  So, the last report that I have, the pair have returned and are now building a new nest in the same area.  The average size of a nest is somewhere around 9 feet by 12 feet, and weighs over a ton.  By the way, the Bald Eagle usually mate for life, but if one dies, the other may look to find another mate.

I haven’t been down there for several years.  The first time was in February of 2008 when I got these photos.  I dug them out of my archives and reprocessed them.  The nest was about 300 yards from the viewing area.  I had my Canon 500mm f4 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, making it a 700mm, and still the original images show the eagles as far in the distance.  Just a tiny spot  in the middle of the original photo.  So these pictures are drastically cropped.

I believe that the next three pictures were taken at the original nest.  First photo is the image before I cropped them.  Remember, this is how it looked through my 700mm lens.

Original view of Bald Eagle nest.

Original view of Bald Eagle nest.

Pair of Bald Eagles on nest.

Pair of Bald Eagles on nest in early morning sun.

Bald Eagle leaving nest.

Bald Eagle leaving nest.

Those were the only good photos that I could make good enough to post here.

We went back in October of 2008, and they were back and had built another nest, not far from the original.  Only one bird was on the nest then.  Again here is the original, followed by the cropped version.

Original Eagle on nest

Original Eagle on nest

You can see in the above photo the immense size of their nest.

Bald Eagle on nest

Bald Eagle on nest

That was the only photo that I have from that day that I considered not a throw-away.  By the way, I believe that it is this nest that was destroyed this year by the storm.

Llano is about 200 miles distant from here in San Angelo, so I don’t get down there very often.  But they are the closest opportunity that I have to see a Bald Eagle.

With my new Canon EOS 7D Mark II and my Tamron 150-600mm lens, I feel that I may get some nice images if I can get back down there.  We will see.

Llano, Texas – Bald Eagles


About two and a half years ago, Feb. 7, 2008, to be exact, Ann and I, decided to make a trip down to Llano, Texas, a distance of 130 miles.  A pair of nesting Bald Eagles have been going there annually, for the past six or seven years, always using the same nest.  We had been there a few months previously, when they had arrived to start re-building the nest.  During that time, we had watched them haul up branches, sometimes the size of 2x4s.

This time we were interested in seeing the young eaglets.  We got glimpses, but they were pretty tiny, and mostly hidden from view.  To see the eagles, a person has to watch from the side of Highway 71, about 7 miles from Llano.  For best viewing use binoculars or long lenses.  Because of the large amounts of people that flock to see the eagles, the highway department has cleared a spot off the road to allow for parking, so is not to impede traffic.

As usual, there were 3 or 4 other photographers there, each with a long lens set-up because the nest is about 200 yards from the highway, high in a tree.  Some were using Nikons, but I didn’t hold that against them. 🙂  Seriously, we were all friends and enjoyed swapping tales and talking photography.  For best lighting it is best to get there early in the morning.  Also, to get the better spot to set up a camera. It can get a bit crowded.

It was pretty cold and nippy that morning, so it wasn’t long before Ann opted to sit in the car and read a book.  I was thankful that I had dressed for the coolness.  At least, the sun was bright and shining.

As we watched, one of the adults was going and bringing food for the young ones.  We watched him/her bring up a whole leg of a deer, a large duck or goose, and a large fish of some kind.  Those kids were going to be well fed.

I got many images, of course, but none that really showed much of the eaglets.  As I said, they usually were hidden by one or both of the adults, and also because of the depth of the nest.  By the way, those eagles nests, or aeries, are huge.  This one probably measured 8 feet across.  I have chosen this image to show you.  First the original, to show you how far away it was.  Remember I was using the equivelent of a 700mm telephoto lens.  The second photo is of course, my cropped and edited version.

Bald Eagle from 200 yards thru 700mm lens

Bald Eagle - cropped close-up

  • Canon EOS 40D
  • Canon 500mm IS lens with 1.4 tele-converter – tripod mounted
  • 1/1600 sec. @ f7.1
  • ISO 400
  • Lens focal distance  700mm
  • Metering  – pattern
  • Aperture priority
  • Bogen-Manfrotto tripod
  • Wimberley II gimbal head

Click in either image to enlarge.

Snow and Bald Eagles


Although not a rarity, it still is a little unusual to get snow around here, and it usually is gone within a day.  Last night we got nearly 2 inches (with drifting up to 4 inches).  A little humor there.  I’m originally from Michigan and as a kid I can remember about 4 feet of it hanging around all winter.

Up in cold Canada, Dave Skinner wrote me to say that the Phainopepla was still hanging around.  You can go to a previous post to read how that bird is very rare up there.  He forwarded this photograph.

Phainopepla

It is pretty cold out.  The sun came out and about noon I ran out, or actually limped out with my Canon 7D.  My hip is a little gimpy because of over exuberance bowling with my Wii game. 🙂   Anyway the snow is halfway gone now, but I grabbed off a couple of wintery shots to e-mail to a friend, but they weren’t anything great to post here.

I updated this site yesterday.  If you notice I have a “blogroll” to the right here.  I have put some links to some friends who all have some great photographs to show, and things to say.

I also added a page completely for San Angelo State Park.  I have some good info there about the park, and I will keep you appraised of any thing new or unusual happening out there.

I found out from my friend down in Llano, that there two eggs in that Bald Eagles nest down there.  I think that is a couple weeks earlier than usual.  Best of luck to the little ones. 🙂

Here are a couple of my photos from a trip to the nest at Llano last year.

Bald Eagle on nest

Pair of Bald Eagles

Happy Birding!!