Merlin, Prey and Fog

Merlin with prey in golden lightMerlin with prey in golden light – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to photograph a Merlin two mornings in a row in the Centennial Valley of Montana, once in low light and once as a fog rolled in. The morning that I photographed this Merlin was cold and the fog rolled in from the lake a few miles away.  The Merlin had prey that appeared to have been cached because it was frozen and because it had prey it seemed less skittish. The light at first was beautiful, warm and golden.

Merlin with prey as the fog starts to roll inMerlin with prey as the fog starts to roll in – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 320, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Three frames later the fog muted the warm light. The fog moved in like a wave and soon the sun appeared to be a ghostly orb hanging in the eastern sky.

Merlin with prey in fogMerlin with prey in fog – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/160, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited or set up

Not long after it was difficult to obtain sharp focus on the Merlin because of the density of the fog but I liked the images of the Merlin in both the golden light and the fog.

I am not sure exactly what the prey was that the Merlin was eating, at first I thought it might be a Western Meadowlark and then wondered if it was a Meadowlark or a sparrow. It really doesn’t matter much what it was just that the Merlin had enough prey for energy on that bitter morning to survive.

I do know that a Merlin, prey and fog made for an exciting experience in the Centennial Valley of Montana.



  1. Lois Bryan September 28, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    what a fabulous succession of images!!!! Amazing captures!!

  2. Grace Cohen September 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Mia – do you always use a tripod, or do you shoot hand-held some, or all of the time?

    • Mia McPherson September 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm


      Most of the time I am shooting from inside a vehicle using it as a mobile blind. Birds here are less skittish about vehicles than they are people. I rarely use a tripod and handhold when needed. About the only time I use my tripod is when I am in a location that I can’t get to in a vehicle. In Florida I almost always shot handheld but I was also using a much lighter lens as my primary setup.

  3. Dave Sparks September 28, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Wonderful sequence.

  4. Patty Chadwick September 28, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Yes! I second Cecile’s comments! This is a beautiful series!!!

  5. Elephant's Child September 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    I am always fascinated (and suprised) at how warm the light can seem on a chilly day.
    Gorgeous series – as always.

  6. Utahbooklover September 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    Cecile expressed it so well. Thank you so much for your ceaseless work Mia. Lovely images all but I do prefer the the pose and light of the first one.

  7. Jolanta September 28, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Beautiful pictures! Thanks 🙂

  8. Glen Fox September 28, 2014 at 10:29 am

    Regardless of the light and fog, you captured the true spirit of the merlin. The soft light is very complementary. I love this species ..spent several years researching them on the Canadian prairies to the north of you. Thank you for sharing!


  9. Eileen September 28, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Awesome captures of the Merlin!

  10. Cecile Shohet September 28, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Hi Mia,

    Wanted to express how satisfying your site is… A daily tribute to the gloriousness of these bird-beings.

    Thank you for your devotion to these majestic creatures, it brings joy to us each day.


  11. Bob Bushell September 28, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Beautiful Merlin in the fog, excellent photos.

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