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Eagle Watch 2018 off to a strong start in Sheffield Mills

SHEFFIELD MILLS - When it comes to Eagle Watch weekend, sometimes the third time’s the charm.

This was the case for Bedford resident Chris Wheeler Jan. 27.

Wheeler was prepared to wait all day if that’s what it took to get the money shot – a clear photo of a bald eagle swooping in to feed on chicken scraps dropped in a farmer’s field near the intersection of Bains and Middle Dyke roads.

But luck was on his side for his third trip to the Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch site.

“It’s the first successful one I’ve had,” he said with a laugh.

In previous years, Wheeler went home with the odd photo of an eagle soaring in the distance, or a group of eagles perched in a far-off tree. This time, he packed his camera gear, a long lens he pulls out for special occasions, warm clothes and a comfy chair. He was fully prepared to wait several hours for the action to unfold if need be.

“They actually did something today right when I showed up,” said Wheeler, noting that the birds were fighting over the chicken scraps strewn about in a field lined with photographers when he arrived.

“I think the eagles knew I was coming and they decided to put on a good show.”

Wheeler, who booked a room in a local B&B for Eagle Watch weekend, was happy to capture shots of birds in flight, fighting over the chicken and carrying the food scraps away from the field.

“There’s some really neat shots.”

Twin sisters Brooke and Brittany Hamilton made the trip from Noel, a rural community in East Hants, to try to snap some photos of untamed eagles.

“We took photography in 4-H for a number of years and just wanted to get out and try something different,” said Brooke.

Brittany added that the event would likely result in a friendly competition, with both amateur photographers aiming to get the best shot of the day.

“We’ve seen some other photos on Facebook and thought it looked fun.”

Dartmouth resident Michelle Martin couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a closer look at bald eagles.

“I’m a hobby photographer and just wanted to get some wildlife pictures,” she said.

“It’s great weather. People are very friendly here; we’re all chatting with each other in the line. It’s awesome.”

Hundreds of photographers typically flock to the Eagle Watch viewing site around the daily feeding times, which were set for 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 27-28 and Feb. 3-4. Breakfast will be available at the Sheffield Mills Community Hall at 98 Black Hole Road from 8

a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on all four Eagle Watch dates, with an $8 charge for adults and $4 fee for children under 12.

“This is our one big fundraiser we do every year to keep the roof on the hall, and keep it warm and make sure that if anything needs to be done, we can take care of it. We also donate some money to local charities, too,” said Meg Hodges, an executive member of the Sheffield Mills Community Association.

Community volunteers started planning out the 26th annual Eagle Watch weekend in the fall, and several local businesses and musicians offered in-kind donations to help make the fundraiser a success.

“It’s been non-stop, but it’s been a great flow,” said Hodges in a brief interview at the breakfast held Jan. 27.

“I think a lot of people made it a weekend, or week-long adventure.”

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