24 March 2010

Cemetery Eagles by Victoriana Lady - Lisa Lewis

For many of us, cemetery photography is pure joy. Personally I lose all track of time when visiting a 19th century cemetery or grave yard. Most of us looking for the next great photo are looking down, and rightly so in a cemetery, but the next time you visit a cemetery, don’t forget to look up. On a recent trip to visit my family I visited the Mt. Olive Cemetery in Eustis, Florida, reported to be haunted, in lake County. As I was walking through I spooked a bird out of a tree, and not just any bird, but a bald eagle. As I looked up and pointed my camera to the sky, I heard a woman’s voice calling to me. Over on the other side of the cemetery was another woman with a camera. (No she wasn't a ghost ) She said, “Come with me, I will show you the eagles nest, I live nearby and have been watching it for some time.” When I looked up into the tree and saw my first baby eagle in its nest, I was awestruck! Actually it was the first time I had ever seen a bald eagle, period. Both the parents were circling around the tree, watching us intently, no doubt. I went to the local Wildlife museum before I returned home to PA and learned some interesting facts about bald eagles. In 1782 the United States Congress selected the bald eagle as our national symbol, representing conquest, freedom and strength. More eagles nest in Florida than any other state except Alaska. Florida has a population of about 3,000-4,000 birds, however they are still a threatened species. They can be up to three feet in height and have a wing span of almost eight feet! Young eagles do not develop their characteristic plumage until they are about five years old, they are uniformly brown until then. Eagles are partners and mate for life. If a mate dies they will look for another. Their courtship is nothing short of amazing if you are ever privileged to witness it. They present spectacular aerial displays where the birds grasp each others’ feet high in the air and plummet towards the ground. Often cart wheeling with their wings and legs outstretched. Quite the dance I am sure!

Eagles nest in very tall trees with clear views, Florida eagles in late fall and early winter when food is in abundance. The nests can be as much as 20 feet thick and ten feet across, and they will occupy the nest for decades. One to four eggs are laid and incubated for 33 to 35 days when the first eaglet hatches. They weigh ¼ of a pound upon hatching , within three months they have about 7,000 feathers and gain up to 12 pounds. Young eaglets are the fastest growing birds of all birds in America and leave the nest at 10-12 weeks of age. Many Florida eagles are year round residents while others migrate north as far as Canada. Today the eagles are threatened by human disturbance, habitat loss, exposure to pesticides and collisions with vehicles. It was a privilege for me to witness this amazing site. I tried to zoom in and get the best possible shots with how far up the nest was and how high the parents were flying. At one point the sun was so bright in my eyes, I was simply pointing the camera in the air and randomly snapping. I was happy to get home and find that a few in flight pictures were captured. The photos were taken with a Canon Power Shot A540 camera.

Getting back to the reason for my visit to the cemetery, I also photographed an interesting part of American history, several grave stones marked with signs that read, “Former Slave.” I mean no disrespect by posting these photos. The loved ones of the deceased show honor to their ancestors and their heritage, and I have the highest respect for that homage. I hope you will enjoy seeing these photos as much as I did shooting them.

Avid Taphophile and Victorian Mourning historian, Victoriana Lady Lisa Lewis. You can find more of my cemetery visits at www.VictorianaLady.com on my Taphophilia page.

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