Northern Harriers On The Wing

Male Northern Harrier with the Wasatch Range in the backgroundMale Northern Harrier with the Wasatch Range in the background – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This winter; if you can call it that, hasn’t been the best for raptor photography in my experience, in fact I would call it dismal. I probably would have gotten more raptor images if I still lived in Florida actually.

But as I work on getting my new photo galleries set up I keep coming across images I have taken of raptors and other birds in “normal” winter conditions and today I’d like to share a few Northern Harriers on the wing that were taken a few years ago.

Male Northern Harriers, also called Gray Ghosts, are especially delightful to my eye when their plumage contrasts with soft bluebird skies that have just a touch of habitat in them, like this male who has the Wasatch Range behind him that was taken at Farmington Bay WMA in January of 2010. That was a snowy winter!

Northern Harrier panoNorthern Harrier pano – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 250, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I also like to show birds with plenty of habitat around them because habitat is important to every species including humans. Healthy habitat, healthy population. Not sure why “the powers that be” can’t see that and want to pollute natural areas and destroy habitat. But I digress.

Northern Harriers are known for their owl-like facial discs but there are times that I think they can look almost cat-like too as shown in this image taken in December of 2009, my first full winter in Utah.

Northern Harrier and a frosty marsh habitatNorthern Harrier and a frosty marsh habitat – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Whether they are male, female or juveniles Northern Harriers are great fun to photograph on the wing. They glide, course, twist, soar, dive and hover over their prey and it can be a challenge to track them with a lens because you never know when they are going to turn.

Looking at the Northern Harrier image above with snow on the ground and frost on the vegetation almost makes me wish for a little more snow this year but I have already begun to long for spring, camping and immersing myself in nature for several days at a time with star-filled nights hopefully in locations where I can photograph more Northern Harriers.

Life is good.



  1. Utahbooklover February 20, 2015 at 10:57 am

    Wonderful images all — thanks for posting. Yesterday I saw a hawk and a turkey vulture circling fairly close together high above me, although at one point the hawk let the vulture know it’s presence was not appreciated.

  2. Patty Chadwick February 20, 2015 at 7:13 am

    Wonderful shot…love the soft background, detail of the bird and the perfect composition. They sure do sweep the fields for prey!

  3. Tom Martin February 20, 2015 at 7:04 am

    That male northern harrier is really spectacularly captured ! Great photography. Thanks. Tom

Comments are closed.