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  Field Notes From
Norbert Rosing

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Norbert Rosing

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Norbert Rosing

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Bald Eagles

Field Notes From Photographer
Norbert Rosing

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As I slept in a blind erected on a small stretch of beach in Newfoundland, thousands of capelin came ashore to spawn. The fish’s little bodies covered the beach, turning it into a breakfast table for the hungry animals nearby.
At 4:30 a.m. the first eagles started calling, followed by more and more. I didn’t move for fear of spooking them. All of a sudden I saw 17 eagles, some sitting as close as 30 feet (nine meters) away from the blind. Several took off while I was photographing, but then two foxes headed toward the beach for their share of capelin. They were afraid of the eagles, but the abundance of fish was too tempting. They snatched as many fish as they could carry in their mouths, ran off a short distance to bury them in the sand, and trotted back for more. An adult eagle attempted to reclaim the beach for its fellow birds. One fox got upset and attacked it. The fight went on for quite a while until the fox gave up and ran away. In the meantime, the sun came up, and beautiful morning light washed over the beach. What a great morning that was!

Capelin die after laying their eggs on the beach. This spectacular behavior went on for days. Pretty soon the entire beach—including the inside of my blind—was covered with dead fish. The July days were very warm, so the smell of the dead fish and the fresh spawn rising from the sand made the air almost impossible to breathe. It was particularly bad inside the blind, where I was cut off from the fresh ocean breeze. And each day for ten days, I spent about five hours in the mornings working from the blind. As much as I enjoyed watching eagles and foxes, I also looked forward to leaving the beach when I finished photographing.

I spent as much time as it took inside a blind on the coast of Placentia Bay to photograph eagle chicks in the nest. I had to be on alert all the time, so there was hardly any time to read a book or write a letter. But during those long hours, I was entertained by a number of visitors. A squirrel came inside, caught me snoozing, and made a lot of noise. Snoozing was over. Spiders built their web next to my camera’s viewfinder, so they were hanging beside my face. And a little shrew checked my food supply daily. It was always in a hurry and chewed constantly. Nothing was safe when it smelled something good. It dug through plastic bags and ate my cheese, but it preferred wieners.

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