Cooperative Dark Morph Swainson’s Hawk Up Close

/, Swainson's Hawks, Utah/Cooperative Dark Morph Swainson’s Hawk Up Close

Perched dark morph Swainson's HawkPerched dark morph Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D500, f9, 1/640, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

View of dark morph Swainson's Hawk on a fence postView of dark morph Swainson’s Hawk on a fence post – Nikon D810, f9, 1/640, ISO 320, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 50mm, natural light, not baited

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.

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk looking right at meDark morph Swainson’s Hawk looking right at me – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Swainson's Hawk dark morph close upSwainson’s Hawk dark morph close up – Nikon D500, f9, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk talonsDark morph Swainson’s Hawk talons – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk looking over its shoulderDark morph Swainson’s Hawk looking over its shoulder – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Portrait of a dark morph Swainson's HawkPortrait of a dark morph Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D500, f9, 1/400, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Dark morph Swainson's Hawk up closeDark morph Swainson’s Hawk up close – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Swainson's Hawk dark morph looking downSwainson’s Hawk dark morph looking down – Nikon D500, f9, 1/500, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Mia

15 Comments

  1. Kim April 17, 2017 at 6:23 am

    So beautiful!

  2. Anita Cothern Austin April 17, 2017 at 2:36 am

    Love this series. My Father talked to me about Hawks. That they were hunters. We would see them with a mouse in their claws. This series puts a Hawk on a fence post with fields extending into the mountains juxtaposed with the closeup of the Hawk whose eyes stare right into yours. Your joy shows on the page. Thanks for your insight.

  3. Utahbooklover April 16, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Very fine and intimate series of a beautiful dark morph Swanson’s Hawk. Thanks!

  4. Antoinette von Grone April 16, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    what a handsome bird!. Have never seen one of them. Thank you.

  5. Elephants Child April 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Majestic. Marvellous. Magic. Megathanks.

  6. Laura Culley April 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Just LOVELY shots! I’ve always been a fool for the dark morphs. That doesn’t diminish that I’m a fool for most all raptors, either 🙂 but the dark morphs really delight my soul!

  7. Pepe Forte April 16, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    Great portraits Mia. The overall detail you captured [especially in the hawks eyes] is really impressive. Thanks.

  8. April Olson April 16, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Beautiful series of a beautiful bird. Isn’t it amazing the diversity of colors in Swainson’s. For me it makes it hard to identify at times.

  9. Glen Fox April 16, 2017 at 10:08 am

    What a gorgeous set of images of a very beautiful bird. I don’t believe I have ever seen a dark phase Swainson’s, not alone one as dark as this.
    Swainson’s were the most common buteo where I grew up in Saskatchewan, but never did I see a dark phase. Thank you for sharing. Happy Easter!

  10. Patty Chadwick April 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

    What a great series!!! Love the close ups….those talons are serious weapons…judging from the fuffed up feathers, it must have been a little cold. Happy Easter!!!

  11. Liz Cormack April 16, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Wow….beautiful. I’ve never seen a dark morph. Happy Easter.

  12. Gordon April 16, 2017 at 8:05 am

    Excelent shots beautiful bird.
    All the best Gordon.

  13. Rosemary Harris April 16, 2017 at 6:36 am

    Beautiful series, Happy Easter.

  14. Megan April 16, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Really beautiful photos. Really beautiful bird.

  15. Bob mcpherson April 16, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Beautiful photos MiA.

Comments are closed.