I want to introduce you to my favorite pair of Bald Eagles, John & Sandy.
Why John & Sandy? I named them after my in-laws. Sandy always seems to be complaining about something to John and like my father in-law, he just puts up with it.
That's Sandy on the right complaining about something to John
I first encountered them three years ago when I first began to photograph Bald Eagles. I found them perched high in a tree at a local pond. I was beyond amazed to see them and have an opportunity to photograph them. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of deep emotional connection that I would have with this pair.
Each year, they’d show up at the same perch where I first encountered them around the middle of October and be around through late March. Honestly, they may be around through the Spring and Summer as well but with the leaves on the trees it becomes next to impossible to see if they are on their perch.
They have given me countless opportunities to photograph them as they about their business. Sometimes I just put the camera down and watch in awe.
Do they recognize me? Who knows? They’ve never given me any reason to believe that they do. I’ve never fed them or left food for them and never will. It’s important that they do not become dependent upon humans for food which is something that I fully support.
John does like to mess with me. He and I play what I call ‘The Waiting Game’. We wait each other out. Will he fly off his perch and give me something interesting to photograph or will I get to cold and head home. John usually wins the Waiting game. On more than one occasion, just as I get into my car he’ll launch from his perch, swoop down and grab a fish close to where I was just standing.
I’ll typically see John more often than Sandy although over the past several weeks, I’ve seen both of them pretty regularly.
How do I tell them apart? A female eagle is much larger than the male. Sandy has a more rounded body while John’s is more slender. Sandy also been banded. She's got a green NJ band on one leg and a federal silver band on the other.
John on the left, Sandy on the right. Female eagles are quite a bit larger than the males
In this close-up of Sandy, you can see her bands quite easily. On one occasion, I was able to read the Green Band and reported it to the NJ Fish & Wildlife. It was the first report that they had had on her since being banded in 2016.
John cruising by on a beautiful Autumn day.