Local photographers drawn to eagles

bald eagle
Even though she is 70 yards away, a female bald eagle seems to be looking at the photographer as she sits in her nest in Tuscarawas County. The female is considerably larger than her mate and has distinctive dark markings under her eyes. Photo by Tim Adams

For two professional photographers, Bob DeMay, of Green, and Tim Adams, of Coshocton, taking photos of bald eagles is not just a great hobby. To them, it’s more like an honor.

“Growing up in northeast Ohio, I never thought I’d get to see eagles here,” said DeMay, who worked as a photojournalist for 31 years, first at the Youngstown Vindicator, then at the Akron Beacon Journal. They weren’t here when DeMay and Adams were growing up.

Bob DeMay

Though he’s visited many national parks, DeMay didn’t spot his first bald eagle until the mid-90s, driving up the Oregon coast. As he passed a lighthouse, he “looked up and saw an eagle. I hadn’t seen one since then, until last year.”

An avid bowhunter, he sets up trail cameras in several places where he hunts in Tuscarawas County. He found they captured such interesting images of forest life that he began keeping them up all year, not just during hunting season. One camera regularly catches turkey and blue heron wandering by a creek. But that means he must change the memory cards about every six weeks.

Last year, on the drive down, he spotted an eagle nest along the road in northern Tuscarawas County and stopped to take photos. A passing motorist suggested that if he liked photographing eagles, he should visit another of the county’s nine bald eagle nests further south.

Tim Adams

That’s where he met Tim Adams, who is a regular visitor to the southern nest. He retired after 31 years at AK Steel’s Coshocton Works and now does some photography for pay. Well, he sells photos of people, like senior pics and weddings, while bald eagle photography is “just a hobby.”

But at this time of year, when the eagles are feeding chicks, it becomes a bit all-consuming. “Once you do it a couple of times, you get hooked,” Adams admitted.

He’s gone to some of the other nests in northeast Ohio, but takes almost all of his bald eagle photos at the one that is only 20 minutes from home. That nest is “seven or eight feet below eye level,” which allows him and others to see into the nest. But it is still some 70 yards away, so it requires a long lens.

Adams has been photographing this nest for six years, but others tell him the nest — and the mated pair of bald eagles — has been there for at least eight, and possibly as many as 10 years. The parents use the same nest each year, they just keep adding to it. They have hatched between one and three eggs per year, Adams said.

Last year, two eggs hatched about a week apart; this year, it was just one. But this hatchling is definitely a star. Adams has been going four or five days a week, as long as it’s a sunny day.

“I try to get up there between 8:30 and 9 a.m., when the sun pops up over the hill,” he said. “The early light is the best.”

The mom and dad take turns being out of the nest to hunt for food. One needs to stay to protect the baby, especially from hawks and other bald eagles. Adams waits till the parents “swap out” so that he can catch them in flight. That can take as many as three or four hours. In any case, he is usually out of there by noon, when the light gets harsh.

Bald eagles tend to nest near rivers, lakes and streams because their favorite foods is fish. That may be why Coshocton County has 14 nests: The Tuscarawas and Walhonding rivers connect with the Muskingum River right in the town of Coshocton. Adams’ favorite nest is also near a river, but he has not been able to catch the eagles catching fish — the trees between the nest and the water are too thick. Bald eagles hunt live prey like squirrels, rabbits, ducks and even turtles. But they’re also scavengers and sometimes pick up roadkill.

Adams has photos of a deer leg in the nest with juveniles chewing on it. Other photos show a parent bringing a flattened raccoon to feed the little ones. Roadkill “makes a great photo op, especially if you can recognize what it is,” he joked.

So while his wife works from home during the COVID-19 shutdown, Adams takes every opportunity to get shots of the eagle family. “Probably more than I should,” he said.

And even though DeMay works part time, and the Tuscarawas County nest is an hour’s drive away, he also finds himself making photos of eagles whenever the sun shines. Both he and Adams post their spectacular photos on the OHIO Bald Eagles Facebook page. For free.

“My son says I have too much time on my hands,” DeMay said, chuckling. “But it’s easy to socially isolate while I’m doing it.”


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Barbara Mudrak was a reporter for 25 years, mostly with the Akron Beacon Journal, and recently retired from teaching English and news writing at Alliance High School. She can be reached at editorial+barb@farmanddairy.com.



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