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The Eagle has landed | by Pete Foley
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The Eagle has landed

While in the Andean highlands, I allowed this guy to sit on my head. It was a lot less exciting than my last encounter with an eagle. When I was about 12 years old, at a falconry show in Chilham, England, I was invited to get a close up shot of a golden eagle. This involved me lying face down on the ground with my camera, while the eagles handler dropped a lump of raw meat on my butt. The idea being that the eagle would swoop down, grab the meat, and I would get a photo of a lifetime. Of course, he didn't tell me what he planned to do, so when he dropped the meat on my butt, I swung my head around to see what he was doing. The movement of my body caused the meat to drop down between my legs, rather than staying on my butt. Unfortunately the huge golden eagle was now in flight, and instead of grabbing the meat from my butt as it flew past, it now landed with one talon firmly, and somewhat sharply gripping each buttock. It then preceded to peck around an area nobody wants a gold eagle pecking around in, hunting for its lost meal. I'm not sure I knew what fear was until that moment, and I have never remained that still before or since. I don't think I even breathed. Eventually after what seemed an eternity, but was probably only a few seconds, the eagle found its lump of meat, speared it from between my legs with one last stab of its very sharp beak, and sprang skyward from my now clawed behind, fortunately leaving me otherwise unharmed, if slightly shaken. No photographers were harmed during the creation of this moment!

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Taken on May 10, 2012