Argh.. don’t turn!!

/, Birds, Utah/Argh.. don’t turn!!

Male American Kestrel in flight with a voleMale American Kestrel in flight with a vole – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, not a set up

In February I wrote a tongue in cheek and slightly serious article titled “So ya think ya want to be a bird photographer?” that explained some of the joys and pitfalls of being a bird photographer and since I wrote that I find myself coming up with new things I would/should add to that article. Maybe sometime in the future I will simply rewrite it to add all my additonal thoughts on the subject.

Yesterday I came across another thing I should add to that post.

Imagine that you come across a male American Kestrel perched on a post with a vole and that you would love to get some images of the little falcon eating the prey. So you drive slowly up to the bird, lens out the window after checking your settings to make sure you have the right depth of field, exposure and shutter speed. You are ready so you creep the vehicle up just a tiny bit closer while holding your breath that the bird doesn’t fly away.

You look through the viewfinder, compose your shot and lock in focus as your finger presses the shutter button halfway down.

You release your breath, relax and start to take images when out of your peripheral vision you see another vehicle at the T intersection of the road, in your mind and quietly outload you mutter “don’t turn, don’t turn, please don’t turn!” because you know the chances are that the vehicle will head your way and startle the bird.

There are times this happens after you have been on the bird for a long time waiting for wonderful action, the best light or for a lift off photo, you’ve had time to check your techs and are sitting there watching the minutes quietly ticking away or; as it happened yesterday, just long enough to get ready to take your shots.

I was fairly certain that the oncoming vehicle would cause the bird to lift off and he did. I mentally prepared myself; in mere tenths of a second, to try for the lift off shots to come.

As the vehicle passed by the kestrel did indeed take flight with his breakfast in his talons. I was able to get three shots off with the bird in the frame and one when the bird had nearly left it, two of those images had the bird’s wings clipped (delete bin), one was a blur (delete bin) and the image above where I had the whole bird, the prey and light in the eye. I got one shot I am happy with.

Yes, the frustrations of being a bird photographer… but I still love being one.



  1. eric c11 November 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    very nice 🙂
    each year, i ve a kestrel nest in one of my old wall in my garden, and when the mal bring a prey to the nest, he eat the head before to bring it to the femelle or to the smalls, perhaps this kestrel too

    on one of my shot, we clearly see a green lizard without head just before to be gives to the juveniles

    see you soon

  2. Birding is Fun! April 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    I know the situation well! Fantastic Kestrel photo!

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