I thought I was going to get “skunked” on Antelope Island this morning, skunked meaning not bringing home any decent shots of birds. The island has been slow lately, it always is in August but maybe the drought this year is making it worse. Even the Burrowing Owls didn’t seem to want to come up and perch on the sagebrushes. It was hot when the day started.
Juvie Red-tailed Hawk flying towards a perch – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 500, +0.3, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
After having driven around the north end of the island we headed south thinking there probably wouldn’t be much to shoot there… until I spotted this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk perching on some of the darker rocks on the island. We’ve long hoped to find a raptor perched on those dark rocks and today we did. The juvie perched for a while as we photographed it and then it may have seen prey because it lifted off and dove into the grasses not too far from the perch it had just left. I watched it walking around in the grasses through my lens hoping that it would go back to the rock it had been on.
In this frame the hawk was heading towards the perch I first spotted it on.
When I took this frame I realized the hawk was much closer than what I would have expected it to be and it struck me that the young raptor might land closer to me than it had been before. I kept my toes crossed because my fingers were busy. Good thing I was wearing my hiking sandals.
The juvenile Red-tailed Hawk landed on top of these richly toned, dark rocks that was much closer than where I had originally seen it. By then the morning was getting warm (okay, it was hot) and the bird kept its wings slightly away from its body in an effort to keep cool.
After a few minutes I could tell by the bird’s behavior that it might lift off so I backed up my zoom hoping that when it took flight I wouldn’t clip the wings. Then I saw it crouch and knew it was lifting off. The frame after this one, the one where the hawk had its wings high over its head? I still clipped it even after I had backed up my zoom.
It was such a great pose. I’m kicking my own butt for messing that shot up.
I backed up my zoom a touch more as I was shooting in a burst and in this frame which was immediately after the one I messed up I was able to get the whole bird in without clipping anything. Yay!
I was still backing up the zoom for the next frame because the bird was flying even closer to me than it was the frame before (above) and didn’t clip the wing tips in this one.
The juvenile Red-tailed flew towards some rocks to the south and we went back to see if we could get more images of it. We did but the bird wasn’t as close to us as it was in this series of frames.
I mentioned a “price” in the title and I don’t want to leave that hanging.
Just after the young hawk took off from its perch the first time I felt a stinging pain on the right side of my neck and knew I was getting bit so I slapped at my neck and killed a Deer Fly. I kept on shooting and by the time we went south to photograph the Red-tailed hawk on the other rocks I realized my neck was swelling and popped 12.5 milligrams of Benadryl into my mouth and swallowed it. Once we left the hawk to head north again I took another 12.5 milligrams hoping to stop any further swelling. Right now I’ve got a nice red welt on the right side of my neck from my collarbone to just below my chin.
Were these images worth the price? You betcha!
But now I need to sleep off the Benadryl.