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An American bald eagle chases a great blue heron away from its nest near Fox Lake, Ill., in 2011. / Owen Deutsch

A photo so amazing it seems Photoshopped is creating a flap in birding circles.

Three years ago retired Chicago fashion photographer Owen Deutsch was visiting a friend in Fox Lake, Ill.

"He knew I liked to take bird photos and he told me he had a pair of bald eagles nesting nearby," Deutsch said.

They went out early in a flat-bottomed boat and over the course of a few hours Deutsch got some nice shots of the eagles.

"Then of all of a sudden, I see this great blue heron flying right into a clump where the eagles had their nest. The eagle takes off after the heron, defending the nest," Deutsch said.

The eagle "was just inches from the great blue heron. He could have killed him, easily, but he just scared him off. I couldn't believe it," Deutsch said.

In the 10 seconds the eagle was pursuing the heron, Deutsch got an amazing shot of the two birds flying in eerie symmetry.

"There's no question it was the best picture from the day, maybe the year," he said.

The image was named a North American Nature Photography Association's 2011 Top 10 Showcase Winner and also one of National Geographic's top 25 bird photographs of the week in 2013.

But the shot was so amazing people still have a hard time believing it is real.

Earlier this year Deutsch submitted the photograph to an Audubon magazine photo contest. Unable to reach Deutsch, who was traveling, the magazine instead placed the photo on its "digital manipulation gallery," a showcase of potentially faked photos. "Clearly the context suggested that we were dubious at best," the magazine said.

Then editor Mark Jannot reached Deutsch and got a copy of the raw photo file.

On Feb. 27 the magazine posted an official apology and confirmed the photo's authenticity. "I apologize to Owen Deutsch on behalf of Audubon for casting doubt of any sort on the authenticity of what is truly an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime photograph," Jannot wrote.

And yet it is still generating a photo flap. Tuesday the American Bird Conservancy posted Deutsch's photo on its Facebook page, calling it "one of the more remarkable bird photos of recent years."

The image quickly garnered over 200,000 views and 270 comments as birders debated whether such a photo could be real or if it had been Photoshopped to put the two birds so close together in such identical poses.

ABC's Robert Johns finally stepped in to say they had vetted the image and it was, indeed, an actual shot.

Deutsch says the controversy doesn't bother him. He was there and knows the photo was real, and all the attention is allowing more people to see it.

And it's helping birds. While he doesn't sell his bird pictures, he does donate them to charity. "People write a check to the American Bird Conservancy and I'll send them a print," he said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Amazing birding picture causes photo flap

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