Beware the Urban Ninja

Remember me, I’m the dude that is suppose to have 6 posts a month yet it is nearly Christmas and the tally is stuck at a lousy one.  Of course, there is another more “half full” way to look at it which is 67 out of 72 in the books already with another New Year’s commitment about to get the checkmark.  Truth is things have been busy as of late, but Friday was my last day of work this year which leaves me plenty of time to pound on the keyboard.  Which brings me to tonight’s quick post.  Linda and I were up in the Quad Cities yesterday to have Christmas dinner (actually to be more accurate, Christmas lunch) with her side of the family.  Linda’s middle brother lives in Bettendorf IA which is minutes away from our favorite place to take eagle pictures.  With the cameras all packed, we left an hour early to give us some time to see if this year’s eagles had made their way down yet.

Unfortunately, I only saw two eagles.  One ended up flying over us and landing in the trees at the other end of the parking lot.  Creeping over there in my best ninja impersonation provided about 5 “bird on a stick” shots.  By the last shot, he was clearly staring at me rather intently before deciding his wings gave a significant advantage over the land dwellers and left for the safety somewhere out in the Mississippi River.  Stupid me didn’t have the camera configured to my preferred in flight settings making it difficult to get shots as he flew directly over my head.  Eventually another decided to check out the fish options nearby, but again, no shots worth bragging about.  I did walk down a little and say hello to another photographer that had set up along the river.  After some lens envy (always impressed by the $6K+ fast glass some people haul out there).  According to that photographer there were 10 eagles nesting in a nearby set of trees, but another photography couple had decided to walk directly out to those trees and scared them all away.  They were on their way back over while I was talking to the guy.  Guessing the dude wasn’t too happy about that since he literally stared at them the entire time they were walking back past him until they were in their car heading out.  Keep in mind, it was about 1 degree out and he was probably staking out that location for some time.  I always try to be conscious of other photographers in the area and respect their positions especially if they were there before me.  For the curious, I verified there were no other photographers taking pictures of the eagle I saw at the end of the lot, otherwise the approach would have been delayed.

Guessing at this point that it is still a little early for the best eagle watching.  After about 10 more minutes I called it a shoot and headed back to the car where Linda and the dogs were waiting patiently.  Another car pulled into the area just as I reached the edge of the lot.  Something seemed odd about it, but had difficulty pinning it down.  Nothing really unique or special about the car, in fact, it was a pretty boring 4 door in a champagne or off silver color.  There were no stickers or ornate hangings from the rear view mirror that would interest me either.  As I started to turn back to our car it became clear why the brain alarm was going off.  The front license plate was covered in a camouflage cloth.  It was also done with care since it was perfectly wrapped and tight fitting like a package.  Although I was trying n0t to stare since the car was right next to me and the owner was still inside, it did seem like it was actually more like a shower cap of sorts that had elastic on the backside which held it tight to the plate bracket.  Okay, now I am totally curious.  Is this some kind of car ninja all decked out in clever urban camo?  Maybe he’s like a transporter and wants to remain stealth like or worse here to kill me, take my camera and throw my lifeless carcass into the frozen river.  Conscious of the latter option I headed back to our SUV.  Once inside I informed Linda of the interesting situation, but it didn’t seem to be as intriguing to her as it was to me.  Needing to get to her brother’s, she backed out and headed to the exit.  As we passed the car, the first thing I noticed was it had a rear license plate (Iowa) that wasn’t covered up at all.  At the same time the owner of the car got out revealing he was probably in his late 60’s early 70’s causing an internal chuckle since my own ninja skilz would have kept me safe and sound.  This whole things still interests me and still kicking myself for not trying to get a shot for you.  Linda’s conclusion was that he didn’t want his car being photographed by the traffic cameras in the Quad Cities and therefore put the cover on the front.  I’d almost buy this under the assumption the traffic cameras only took head-on shots, but guessing they also take a rear shot just in case.  Secondly, and more importantly, it is mandatory in Iowa (like Illinois) to have a front license plate, so actually he is putting himself in a more likely position to get pulled over and given a ticket by any of the local police forces.

Probably reading more into this than there really is, but I’m all about the weird and this discovery fits the bill.  Any of you have theories on this you would like to share?  If not, I’m going with the discovery of an urban ninja using his clever skilz to live among us without detection (this includes the old guy disguise).  For what evil purposes is still unclear, but clearly lucky to be alive today to tell about it.

Eagles Through the D90

 Juv Eagle Taking Flight

I can’t remember if I mentioned if previously, but we purchased a new camera a month or so ago.  The previous pictures (particularly the wildlife photos) were taken with a Nikon D70.  I actually really like that camera and does a great job with the exception of low light.  The 70 can only go to 1600, but the Nikon D90 can go to 3200 which makes it better for the indoor dog show pictures my wife spends her time on.  The remainder of this year will be spend trying to figure out how to use all those new features.  We took it on a test run up in Davenport IA again and the shots were fantastic.  The reduction for this website cuts the quality some, however, they still stand out in my opinion.  The image above of the juvenile taking flight is one of my favorites.

For some reason there were no eagles at our standard spot (at the locks in Davenport).  It was a little late in the season and the temps were starting to head upwards generally signaling their departure.  Disappointed, we headed back to Davenport to see if they were down on Rockingham.  As we drove along the river I noticed a pair of them sitting up trees.  They were actually perched on the opposite side of the road from the river and basically in the front yard of a mansion.

Eagle Pair

This had the added benefit of a clean shot since it was the only tree (granted huge) in the yard.  I learned my lesson a long time ago, so the image above was a quick shot from afar.  Never waste the moment by trying to get too close before the first shot.  Eventually, I worked my way a little closer which didn’t seem to bother them at all.  It never occurred to me before how much more sinister the juveniles look than the matures.  Guessing the juvi is a little cocky sitting next to the 2nd in charge of the skies (Owls being the top of the chain since they will actually attack and kill an eagle).   I finally moved into position and capture this stunning shot.  The full sized image is a lot better and really brings the talons out on the mature.  I’ll probably make this my background.

Eagle Watch

Follow the jump to see some more pictures we captured while we were up there.

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