Having one Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) in my viewfinder is a joy and getting two of them in the same frame is even more of a delight.

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks in morning lightA pair of Red-tailed Hawks in morning light – Nikon D300, f9, 1/200, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

On the morning of the last day of my recent trip to southwestern Montana we found this pair of adult Red-tailed Hawks perched on the sun-bleached branches of a dead Aspen in Beaverhead County, I believe they are a mated pair because they stayed close to each other the entire time that I photographed them. The warm morning light lit the raptors up beautifully while clouds moving in from the west created a wonderful background.

The shrill “kli kli kli” call of a pair of American Kestrels could be heard each time one of the Red-tailed Hawks lifted off from the branches they were perched on, perhaps the kestrels had fledglings nearby but I never saw them. The small falcons dive bombed the flying hawks with amazing fierceness. I wish that the action had happened closer and more out in the open so that I could have gotten images of it.

AlertRed-tailed HawksAlert Red-tailed Hawks – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

In just the 9 minutes between the time these two images were created the clouds in the background became significantly darker and the warm, golden tones of the sunlight falling on the hawks and branches added a dramatic contrast to this frame. I have no idea what the Red-tailed Hawks saw in the sky that caused them to be on alert, the pickup roof obscured my view.

After losing the light it was time to pack up and leave Montana but not the memories or treasure trove of images that I created while I was there.