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.
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.
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.
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.