I had been staring out from a wooden hide at a dead fox lying on a snow swept hillside for the best part of ten hours when one of my inmates happened to mention the classic Monty Python ‘Dead Parrot’ sketch, featuring a Norwegian Blue (for a reminder, or for those not old enough to remember it, the full sketch can be seen here). The fox that had our undivided attention in no way resembled a parrot but it was definitely dead albeit its tail did ‘twitch’ every so often or so it appeared in the strong wind. The unfortunate fox and parallels to the Norwegian Blue had at least relieved some boredom whilst we waited for our target to show up. Some of us had taken to photographing said fox and I even filmed it! It wasn’t an action-packed sequence but at least the spindrift added some drama!
By now it was 16.30 and we had been in the hide since well before dawn so as not to betray our presence to any eagles that might be in the vicinity. The wind had been blowing fiercely all day and we hadn’t seen a bird, not even a crow. Still, our guide would soon be coming to let us out and we could warm up. It was around -10 degrees outside and the small heater had done little to keep the cold from nipping at my toes. Then from nowhere an eagle landed on a distant pine tree where it began to feed on a black grouse (again put out as bait). The eagle was clearly struggling to get much meat from the now frozen carcass and it soon turned its attention to the fox.
The light was fading quickly and we knew our guide would arrive any minute and inadvertently scare the bird away. Each time the eagle paused to look up between feeds, a simultaneous volley of shots rang out at 10 frames per second. It was an impressive bird, almost certainly a female judging from its large size (males are much smaller). I took several variations and then turned to filming. The windswept snow looked great as it rushed past the eagle, at times almost obscuring it from view. A second eagle landed briefly behind the first and I hoped that a fight over the food might ensue but instead it retreated to a nearby tree to watch and wait its turn.
The feeding eagle was quickly away as Ole Martin Dahle appeared to collect us but by then the light was dimming quickly. It had been a long and mostly uneventful day, as is often the case when photographing wild eagles that don’t always read the script. Hoping for more action, we returned under the cover of darkness the following morning. It was still freezing cold and blowing hard but the sky was clear. It was like Groundhog Day, at first waiting in the dark trying to catch some sleep, then watching the sun creep slowly down the far hillside and finally lighting up the dead fox. A pair of eagles gave us brief hope as they soared down the valley but by 14.30 the sun had faded from in front of us and no shots had been fired. Then, just like the day before an eagle flew directly in and landed on the fox. There was a tangible holding of breath from all of us inside the hide as the eagle eyed us suspiciously. But it soon relaxed to feed and our memory cards began to fill up. A second eagle put on a good show for us later on as the light turned blue and by the time Ole Martin came to release us from the confines of ‘the box’ we had all well and truly filled out boots.