The hawks of September 2011

Yes, after flowers and bees, I’m back to birds.  Can anyone guess what kind?  Hawks, of course.

Northern Harrier hawk getting ready to pull a shepherd . . .
Northern Harrier hawk getting ready to pull a shepherd . . .

That’s right, it’s getting ready to get the flock out of there.  This guy was sitting on a fence along my favorite stretch of road for spotting and photographing hawks; County Line Road between Route 83 and I-25.  That five miles stretch is fertile ground for anyone wanting to capture hawks for the digital canvas.

Harriers come into the area for the winter, and right now they are overlapping with Red-Tailed hawks.   The main difference between Red-Tails and Harriers is Harriers seldom hang around to get photographed.  The pose above was the first shot I could get off, and that’s from inside the car.  Had I taken the time to get out it would have been gone.

Decent wing spread picture . . . would have been better in full sun.
Decent wing spread picture . . . would have been better in full sun.

Unfortunately it was late evening, the sun behind a cloud, and low in the horizon.  I got a burst off, plus a few more, but there are only six (6) pictures that were passable, and even then they are not as sharp as I would like.  Still, click on the pictures to go to the SmugMug album. (Yes, I realize I say that all the time, and yes, I realize 99% of the few who read these posts don’t bother to check out the SmugMug pictures.  I still have to say it as a reminder for the remaining 1%).

Red-Tailed Hawk on fence post.
Red-Tailed Hawk on fence post.

The very next day, and a little earlier, I spied this Red-Tailed hawk sitting on the fence running along an easement between two properties.  Yes, I am shooting from below.  This particular easement goes over a relatively steep hill.   

A hawk at ease with my presence.
A hawk at ease with my presence.

 Notice the contrast to the Harrier.  This hawk seems positively relaxed with me a scant 15 feet away.  It has its leg up, and barely dignified me with a glance.  If you click on the picture above, you can see the album showing a progression of pictures clipped to the same size from the original, and the hawk getting progressively larger in each one.  

This is the full size picture from about 15 ft away.
This is the full size picture from about 15 ft away.

I did not really notice how close I was until I lowered the camera a bit to see where I was.  Notice the hawk is still relaxed.  

Of course this is too close for action shots.  I dialed back the zoom a bit so I could capture the action when he took off.   

Foot down, it looks ready to take flight.
Foot down, it looks ready to take flight.

Here I zoomed out what I thought would be an appropriate amount.  I should have noticed the wind blowing strong enough to lift its feathers.

I was ready, but . . .
I was ready, but . . .

. . . that hawk moved Ninja-like.  If you check out the album, you will see it’s slightly out of focus in the above picture (the fence post is still in focus).  That was a fast move.

. . . but this was even faster . . .
. . . but this was even faster . . .

Probably aided by the wind, but still look at the distance it traveled between the two consecutive shots.  I was shooting at 6 frames per second or so . . . that’s about 0.17 seconds between the two shots, and I panned the camera or I would have missed most of it.

In fact, I did miss most of it.
In fact, I did miss most of it.

In fact I did miss most of it.  This is the left side of the next, and last, good frame I was able to capture.  Remember, I was panning the camera, and I still missed it.

There are six more shots, but by then it was over the opposite fence, and dropping down the side of the hill.

All I got was six pictures of a blurry bird-like blob disappearing below the horizon.

Lesson learned.  Zoom out more; you can always crop and enlarge (like I did for the Harrier).

Overall I am pleased with the shots.  Besides, I am sure there will be other opportunities.

Again, the resolution of the pictures in SmugMug is a lot better than these small ones.  Yes, I know your life is too busy to actually take a few seconds to go look at them (as of this writing no one has looked at the Buebirds shots, and I thought those were pretty good).  But for those interested in seeing a little more detail, click on any of the pictures to go to the album (can anyone say broken record player . . . for the younger crowd: stuck CD).

Until next time, this is your amateur Nature photographer saying . . . nothing, I got nothing . . . I should work on a catch phrase.