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Capital Region photographer capturing lives of bald eagles in Cobleskill

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COBLESKILL, N.Y. (WRGB) - There are two celebrities living in Cobleskill these days. Not in a mansion. But 80 feet above the ground in a nest near Walmart right off Route 145. They’re a pair of bald eagles and local wildlife photographer Bill Combs has made a hobby out of capturing their lives.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to have eagles in our neighborhood that are building nests and having babies,” he says.

Nest building continues until the babies are born in March. Combs says both parents take turns sitting on the eggs (one sits, one hunts) and once born the chicks are fed every four hours. A fully grown eagle has a wing span of 7 to 8 feet.

“The female is about 25-30 percent larger than the male,” Combs says. “But he’s just this lean, mean hunting machine.”

A nature photographer for 20 years, Combs says it started out as a way to ditch the office and enjoy the outdoors. Gradually, it became a full time passion. He shares most of his work on the Facebook page, Schoharie County Photos. Recently, one photo was liked more than one million times. He’s also submitted several pieces to National Geographic.

“A lot of people say ‘Why did they build a nest there? Next to the Walmart? It’s location,” Combs explains. “The tree sits on a creek. They fish on it. They hunt duck. They have all these open fields to hunt. Because the babies need a lot of food.”

Combs says eagles were almost wiped out in New York state during the 1960’s. At one point the DEC says only one pair was left. Now, thanks to repopulation efforts there are over 300 pairs.

“Every once and while someone will comment, ‘I’ve never seen an eagle in my life. I’m 64 years old. Could you meet me there and help me see one?’ And I do. And they get to see one for the first time. Either through my camera or with their natural eye. And it just makes my day.”

If you want to view Combs’ work, visit his Facebook page.

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