Prairie Falcon ~ The Fun Keeps Going

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I have had an amazing time photographing Prairie Falcons since last fall. Since the ducks are no longer near the causeway to Antelope Island I have had a more difficult time locating them because they are now searching for their normal winter diet of Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks which are found more “inland” on the island. Yesterday while on the island I spotted this Prairie Falcon perched on a high rock and had to stop to photograph it.

Prairie Falcon lift off #1 Prairie Falcon lift off #1 – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This is a difficult location to photograph from because the angle is steep and below the rocks at the bottom of this frame there is burned vegetation from a fire on that slope last October. Trying to get a clear view is problematic from the shoulder of the road closest to the rocky outcropping. We should probably try from the other shoulder of the road to reduce the steep angle even though that means being further away from the bird. One of the frustrations of being a bird photographer is knowing what location or position is the best for each opportunity.

I barely had time to adjust my exposure compensation as the falcon perched on the rocks before it lifted off. Those white rocks make exposure challenging and then when the bird lifted off I needed to be concerned about the exposure against the blue sky too.

Prairie Falcon lift off #2Prairie Falcon lift off #2 – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

These images are two consecutive frames, by the third frame the falcon had turned and I didn’t get great light in the eyes. Even at 1/2000 I still have some motion blur but I think that adds to the feeling of movement in both of these images. I also wish the sun had not risen as high as it was because it deepened the shadows and it was a bit contrasty.

Since Prairie Falcons are year round residents on the island I am looking forward to photographing them throughout the spring and summer.



  1. Laurence Butler March 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Some lovely posts you’ve had up today Mia, but no surprise there. The Falcon an Bison are both spectacular animals and occupy very different niches in the natural world. The Prairie Falcon is a paragon of sleekness, speed, and precision as it lifts off into the air. The Bison is an earthy beast, one of great power and strength. I appreciate the juxtaposition you’ve created by posting the two today.

    It’s even more appropriate then that bison hair is such a common nesting material for the birds, and likewise how the starlings gather around the bison and (I assume) eat their flies. They are lovely exchanges to witness and contemplate between such different animals.

    Great work Mia, thanks for sharing.

    • Mia McPherson March 12, 2012 at 5:59 am

      Laurence, I love how you compared the Bison and Prairie Falcon, I had never thought of it quite that way before but I agree with you 100%. Soon I will do a post about how birds use the Bison fur. Thanks so much for your comment and thoughts on these two posts.

  2. Tammy Karr March 6, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Great action photos Mia! I look forward to seeing more!!

    • Mia McPherson March 12, 2012 at 5:57 am

      Thanks Tammy, I am hoping to get some photos of young birds just learning to fly this season, I think that would be amazing!

  3. Kathleen Finnerty March 6, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    LOVE the second image in flight – great wing definition!

    • Mia McPherson March 12, 2012 at 5:56 am

      Thank you Kathy, they are so fast when lifting off, I am always happy just to get a few frames of the action.

  4. Prairie Birder March 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent photos, I would love to see a Prairie Falcon!

    • Mia McPherson March 12, 2012 at 5:55 am

      PrairieBirder, I hope you get to see a Prairie Falcon soon, they are such handsome birds. Thanks for commenting!

  5. judy watson March 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Wow! Very gooooood!

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