The Steller’s sea eagle seen flying on both sides of the Baie des Chaleurs — in New Brunswick and in the Gaspé — isn’t just wowing birdwatchers; earlier this month, it also provided a bonding moment for biologist Pierre Etcheverry and his son, Antoine.
“It put us on the same wavelength,” said Etcheverry. “Being able to share that, father and son, it’s hard to express but it gives a certain satisfaction.”
Etcheverry says word spread quickly when the eagle, an endangered species native to eastern Russia, was spotted on the Gaspé peninsula in early July.
On Friday, July 9, he and his son set out to try to catch a glimpse.
“I ran into one of my friends who’s very well connected [in the birdwatching community],” he said. “He told me, ‘If you want to see the eagle, this is where it is, I just saw it maybe an hour ago.'”
The Etcheverrys first saw the bird from a distance, near the estuary of the York River, but Pierre Etcheverry says the lighting and the background weren’t ideal. The pair decided to hike around to the other shore to try for a better view, a quick decision that ultimately paid off.
“[With] a little bit of luck, we found ourselves in a place where all of the conditions came together,” Etcheverry said. “The other shore gave us enough altitude that we were practically face to face with the eagle.”
Etcheverry says his son was operating the camera for the striking series of images. The two were tucked a few hundred metres away in the forest and he says seeing the eagle perched on top of a tree, being bothered by a few swooping red-winged blackbirds makes the pictures unique.
“It’s the kind of thing you only see once in a lifetime,” he said. “And there’s a relationship between different species, a really particular situation that shows the behaviour [of the birds].”
“In a wildlife photo, that’s what we’re looking for: something that goes above and beyond just a simple representation of the species.”
Etcheverry works in Forillon National Park and has been a wildlife photographer on the side for 30 years. His son Antoine took his first photo when he was seven, but spent the last 15 years playing guitar and composing classical music — he only got back behind the lens recently, after moving to the city of Gaspé for work.
The father and son are now working together on Wildest Moods, a photo, video and graphic design project focused on nature and wildlife.
“Life brought me in other directions but now the two of us are together in Gaspé,” said Antoine Etcheverry.
“It’s a beautiful team effort and a great experience. I think we’re able to learn things, both of us together, and develop our skills.”
Pierre Etcheverry says he thinks Antoine is enjoying the chance to express himself creatively outside of music and he looks forward to spending more time with him outdoors.
“Not only does he like [taking pictures], he’s also taken some really good ones!” he said.
“We’re pursuing that passion together, that passion for nature and for sharing what we experience out there.