Bald Eagles of Kachemak Bay, Alaska 2018 Trip Report

By Perry Conway on Apr 04, 2018

Even though I had been to Homer many times, until I scouted this adventure in 2017, I never fully realized the astonishing variety of wildlife species available for photographers during the winter months.  The bald eagles are, however, the main attraction here.  Because Homer and the entire Kachemak Bay area are bathed by the warm Japan (or Kushiro) Current it is not very cold here in March.  On two our recent Bald Eagles of Alaska's Kachemak Bay tours, nighttime temperatures dropped into the lower 20s Fahrenheit, while during the day it would be in the lower 30s—great weather for action-packed wildlife photography.  And great action-packed photography is what we got!  It was not uncommon for our photographers to shoot several thousand images a day on these photo tours.  First thing in the morning, we began our days by seeing sea otters and several varieties of ducks, like the beautiful harlequins and goldeneyes, while walking down to the boat dock.  If you looked up, bald eagles were always perched on light poles and, sometimes, on moored boats in the harbor.  As soon as our boat left the shore the picture taking began.  TA highlight was always the sea otters—many with pups riding on top of their mother's bellies.  As soon as we were out of the harbor, more otters, diving ducks, gulls, and seals would encourage us to get our cameras and photo skills ready for what was just across the bay—an amazing concentration of bald eagles!
Bald eagle Kachemak Bay, AlaskaHomer—and Kachemak Bay—has long had the reputation as one of the very best places in all of North America for photographing bald eagles.  As we approached the south shore by boat, we began to see tall spruce trees with white exclamation points on top—the gleaming white heads of the bald eagles.  ("Bald" eagle means white-headed when "bald" is applied to a bird name.  In earlier times American wigeons were referred to as “baldpates” for the same reason.)  Along the rocky shore the stately spruce trees had been beautifully sculpted by wind and weather to form many massive snags for the birds to perch on.  With eagles continually flying overhead, or perched on the photogenic snags and cliff faces, our photography was virtually non-stop.
For truly dramatic eagle images you really must have great backgrounds as well.  Alaska's towering and serrate snow-covered maritime mountains fit the bill.  They look like the Grand Tetons on steroids and offer a wonderful backdrop for both perched and flying birds.  In addition, the coves and lagoons provide frozen waterfalls, ice falls, and multi-colored cliffs of basalt and granite, plus rock arches that remind me somewhat of Southern Utah—but enhanced by plenty of eagles.  A pair of bald eagles near Homer, AlaskaOne of my favorite spots is “Elephant Rock"—it’s featured in the slide show that accompanies this trip report along with other poetic backgrounds.  Elephant Rock does indeed look like the head of an elephant and it always has plenty of eagles on it.  Some birds would be perched on top while others would be flying by looking for food.  One popular photographic challenge during the trips was to capture a bird flying past or through the massive hole—the arch—formed by the elephant’s "trunk."
I have led numerous bald eagle photo trips to Alaska for more than 20 years.  I can report that Kachemak Bay is by far the very best venue I’ve ever found—plenty of birds and other wildlife, plus a wonderful sense of wilderness providing jaw-dropping backgrounds.  For "shooting" bald eagles, this trip has it all!

Related Tags:  alaska, bald, bay, eagles, homer, kachemak