Yesterday I had an opportunity to photograph this Rough-legged Hawk from a higher vantage point than I am used to when photographing this species, I was on a road that was higher than the shrub that the hawk was perched on. For a few minutes the hawk was calmly looking around the area, I could tell that it was searching for prey because it kept looking around on the ground.
By observing this bird’s behavior I was able to anticipate when it would lift off. One of the first indications that the Rough-legged Hawk was getting ready to take off is that it defecated, which raptors often do prior to taking to the air. At that point I started to get ready for the hawk to take flight by checking my shutter speed, my exposure compensation and my depth of field. I could tell the hawk was focused on something on the hillside below where I was when I saw the bird’s wings start to raise.
The hawk’s eyes were locked on its possible prey as it lifted off from its perch, I was fortunate that the prey was somewhere below me and I was able to maintain eye contact from the bird.
The hawk continued to keep its eyes on the prey. I like how the “rough legs” are very visible in this photo.
By the time I took this image the Rough-legged Hawk was fully in flight. It dipped a bit lower in altitude after this frame and I temporarily lost focus.
The Rough-legged Hawk must have lost sight of its intended prey when I lost focus because in the next few frames the hawk was no longer looking in the same direction it had been in my previous photos and it turned towards my left and continued to fly in the direction until I lost sight of the hawk.
I can relate to the hawk in a way, just like it doesn’t always get the prey it is intent on, I don’t always get the shots I want.