Light morph Swainson’s Hawk juvenile in low light

Light morph juvenile Swainson's HawkLight morph juvenile Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D810, f9, 1/500, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light, not baited

While in Montana earlier this month I had several opportunities to photograph juvenile Swainson’s Hawks that were close and approachable but I didn’t always have great light. The light was some times plain awful because of storm clouds and spitting rain coming through the Centennial Valley and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

Stormy weather over Wigeon Pond, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife RefugeStormy weather over Wigeon Pond, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge – Nikon D200, handheld, f16, 1/45, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 18-200mm VR at 18mm, natural light

The weather at times just plain sucked but those beautiful Swainson’s Hawk juvenile just couldn’t wait because of cold weather coming in (it got down to a low of 11°F a few days later) I thought the Swainson’s might migrate soon. I believe the cold did affect the grasshoppers which are the main prey of Swainson’s Hawks during their time in the northern hemisphere because I saw large flocks of ravens walking slowly through the grasses where they were most likely eating grasshoppers like we eat popcorn while watching a movie along with smaller flocks of Swainson’s Hawks.

Head on stare from a light morph juvenile Swainson's HawkHead on stare from a light morph juvenile Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D810, f9, 1/400, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light, not baited

Even though the light conditions weren’t the best I knew my opportunities with these juveniles were limited and I wanted to photograph them despite the poor light. This particular Swainson’s juvenile seemed to ignore passing pickups, cars and SUV’s and didn’t even flinch when they would rumble by just six to eight feet from it, maybe even closer. We could just park on the other side of the dusty road and photograph them without disturbing the young hawks.

The out of focus background in these images show dried grasses at the lower edge of the frame then the darker gray/blue area above it is distant mountains and above that in light gray is the stormy sky.

Light morph Swainson's Hawk juvenile with its eyes on the skyLight morph Swainson’s Hawk juvenile with its eyes on the sky – Nikon D810, f9, 1/500, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light, not baited

Whenever a bird is close to me I feel honored that they allow me into their world where I can see the details in their plumage, the light reflecting in their eyes and watch their behavior through my lens. I know just how special that is even when it happens in cruddy light.

Life is good.

Mia

14 Comments

  1. SkyHawker4 September 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Oh what fantastic pics of the young Swainsons Hawk! We watched a busy nest this year up at tippy top of tree but close access was not possible and poor camera for great shots. This was SE Denver. Thanks for the magnificent photos!!!!! @SkyHawker4

  2. Bill Richmond September 23, 2014 at 4:36 am

    Stunning set of fine images!!

  3. Colleen September 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Beautiful. I’ve never seen the light morph of a Swainson’s hawk. Does the juvenile light morph plumage change once the bird reaches maturity?

  4. Elephant's Child September 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    What a bird, what a place. I could feel tension ebbing away as I looked and marvelled. Thank you.

  5. CJ Oakley September 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

    “I feel honored that they allow me into their world” …exactly my reason for watching, drawing and painting birds.

    Love these Swainson’s photos Mia…

  6. Jolanta September 20, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Great photos! Hawk plumage is beautiful!

  7. Montanagirl September 20, 2014 at 9:07 am

    Simply gorgeous shots!

  8. Patty Chadwick September 20, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I appreciate that you often include images of the general habitat, the landscape, your subjects afe found in…I love that scenery..Thanks!

  9. Bob Bushell September 20, 2014 at 8:17 am

    Number 1.

  10. Patty Chadwick September 20, 2014 at 8:09 am

    Beautiful beautiful bird…love colors in plumage, esp. Last image…

  11. Sarah Mayhew September 20, 2014 at 7:45 am

    What a beauty!

  12. Carroll Tarvin September 20, 2014 at 6:10 am

    Absolutely beautiful images. The detail is remarkable and the background certainly does not distract me. And, I loved the stormy scenic photo. Again, thank you.

Comments are closed.