I was thrilled and delighted to photograph a very cooperative dark morph Swainson’s Hawk up close yesterday morning in northern Utah. I see more light and intermediate morph Swainson’s Hawks where I live so dark morphs are truly a treat for me to have in my viewfinder.
The Swainson’s Hawk was perched on a fence post at the side of a road where there is a moderate amount of traffic, I wanted to include this photo for a wider view of the setting. I was on the shoulder of the opposite side of the road.
The Swainson’s Hawks have only recently returned from their wintering grounds in South America, some of them travel as far as 14,000 miles when they migrate.
This dark morph Swainson’s was close enough that with my long lens and teleconverter I was able to take portraits of it while it rested, looked around, defecated, roused and scratched its head. I loved being able to see so much detail in its chocolatey brown plumage and look into its beautiful eyes.
If I had approached this hawk on foot it most certainly would have flown away but by being inside a vehicle using it as a mobile blind the hawk seemed very comfortable and did not appear to be stressed at all. Through the years I have noticed that Swainson’s Hawks are typically less skittish than Red-tailed, Rough-legged and Ferruginous Hawks normally are. It was also just below freezing yesterday so the hawk might have been just warming up in the sun and at times they are less skittish then.
I wanted to include this photo because it shows the talons of the Swainson’s Hawk and how dark its chest and belly are all the way down to its feet.
In the interest of full disclosure I cloned out a very out of focus, metal fence post top just to the left of my copyright mark that I felt was distracting in this frame. It is rare for me to clone out objects from my photos but here I wanted the focus to be on the hawk and its talons.
The Swainson’s Hawk roused and fluffed up it feathers then turned its head and preened a few feathers on it shoulders which gave me the chance to take this photo of it looking over its shoulder.
It was such a gorgeous hawk that I gave my shutter button a nice work out yesterday. It isn’t often that I can take such intimate portraits of wild birds of prey so when I can find cooperative birds and can take the close ups without stressing my subject I fire off hundreds of shots.
When I looked into this hawk’s eyes through my viewfinder I found myself wondering about all the places it has been to and seen in North, South and Central America.
This dark morph Swainson’s Hawk may have just been resting up here in northern Utah to make a journey further north to breed but I kind of hope it will stick around so I can photograph it again. Perhaps it will even find a mate here and raise young. Time will tell.
Life is good.