Red-tailed Hawk perched above Elk Lake, Montana

Red-tailed Hawk perched above Elk LakeRed-tailed Hawk perched above Elk Lake, Montana – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/80, ISO 640, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This past September I spotted an adult Red-tailed Hawk perched high on a rocky canyon wall as it looked out over the cold waters of Elk Lake in Beaverhead County, Montana. The light wasn’t great but by focusing on the hawk and avoiding having the bright sky in my frame I was able to get a nice exposure that didn’t have blown whites and one where fine detail shows in the dark plumage of the hawk. I could have easily passed up taking this image because of the lighting challenges but I am glad I didn’t because I actually enjoy the textures  and shapes contained in this rocky setting and the pose of the Red-tailed Hawk.

As I processed this file I noticed that there is a cone from some type of conifer by the feet of this hawk. The cone may have been entangled in the hawks plumage from another location because there weren’t any coniferous trees in that general area. I didn’t see the Red-tailed Hawk fly off though so I can’t be sure that it was stuck to the hawk. One of nature’s mysteries I suppose.


Elk Lake in Beaverhead County, Montana is located in the northeast section of the Centennial Valley and on two sides it has rocky canyon walls.


  1. Stephen Kimbrell October 30, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Red tails are abundant in this area. ( Leroy Texas ) My guess is because it is a farming community and they have lots of prey to choose from. I was plowing one afternoon and saw one swooping for field mice.

  2. Elephant's Child October 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Gorgeous dramatic bird – matched by his location. Thank you.

  3. Jane Chesebrough October 29, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Great shot, I think the cone may be stuck, I saw what the sap did to my car as it dripped out of the trees.Didn’t realize the wings are so long compared to the body.

  4. Keith Nichols October 29, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Another fabulous photo. That’s a great looking bird.

  5. Brian Gatlin October 29, 2013 at 10:14 am

    neat little detail, Mia–sometimes those cones can be really sticky with sap–maybe that’s how it got stuck?

  6. Stu October 29, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Great Photo.. just love that ‘DeNiro’ expression.

  7. Montanagirl October 29, 2013 at 7:43 am

    Beautiful bird! Captured very nicely.

  8. patty chadwick October 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

    Beautiful image…he has “the look of eagles”…..It would be easy to mistake him for one…if you overlooked a few important details, especially the unfeathered “ankles”/ the “short pants”…

  9. judy watson October 29, 2013 at 6:49 am

    Mia, how beautiful!

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