Light Morph Swainson’s Hawk with Different Backgrounds and Distances

/, Box Elder County, Swainson's Hawks, Utah/Light Morph Swainson’s Hawk with Different Backgrounds and Distances

Light morph Swainson's Hawk side viewLight morph Swainson’s Hawk side view – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

Even though it started off cloudy yesterday morning here in Salt Lake City the radar/satellite indicated that there might be some cloud free skies further north and with high hopes that is where I wanted to be. The radar/satellite was mostly right and I did have some sunshine along with Swainson’s Hawks, plenty of Swainson’s Hawks. I think I saw more Swainson’s Hawks yesterday than I have ever seen other than a very large kettle of them I saw in Montana several years ago during migration.

I had beautiful views of this light morph Swainson’s Hawk from the north side of the road.

Light morph Swainson's Hawk perched on a square postLight morph Swainson’s Hawk perched on a square post – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 400, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

The background in these first two photos was mostly high dried grasses (lower portion of the frame) and distant mountains that the sun was shining on which gave me a lot of tans, browns and a touch of green in the background.

Swainson's Hawk light morph close up in profileSwainson’s Hawk light morph close up in profile – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

By moving further west and closer to the Swainson’s Hawk the background behind the bird changed dramatically because instead of the sun shining on the distant mountains there was a cloud that cast shadows on them which gave me a more blue toned background behind the hawk. Because I was closer to the hawk the nearby dried grasses were not visible in this image or the one below and the angle of my lens was also slightly different.

The Swainson’s had a loose feather that was stuck in its gape and touched the lower edge of its eyes in this frame.

Light morph Swainson's Hawk view of talonsLight morph Swainson’s Hawk view of talons – Nikon D500, f10, 1/1000, ISO 400, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

The Swainson’s Hawk scratched that loose feather several times but didn’t dislodge it while I was with the bird. In this frame at least the feather didn’t obstruct my view of the hawk’s dark brown eye.

I always try to pay attention to what is going on in the background of my photos because by changing distance or angles the same bird, like this Swainson’s Hawk, can look very different in my images. The sunshine and shadows also helped to created different backgrounds in these Swainson’s Hawk photos.

Bird photography is fun and life is good.


The differences in angles and backgrounds can also be seen in these two posts:

Great Horned Owl Chick – Angles and Backgrounds

A Wind Blown Great Blue Heron Photographed Using Different Angles


  1. Naomi Schiff May 2, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    We went to the Anza Borrego desert (far southern california) a few weeks ago and saw a huge number of sphinx moth caterpillars in amongst the fabulous wildflower bloom, after years of drought. About a week after our return, the SF Chronicle ran an article on the huge number of Swainson’s hawks that had shown up to consume the caterpiillars. The A-Z hawkwatch site tallied 11,690 Swainson’s! (they don’t have your great photography skills though)

  2. Elephants Child May 2, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Majestic and Marvellous. With impressive talons too.

  3. Patty Chadwick May 2, 2017 at 8:15 am

    What a beautiful series!!! This bird certainly gave you some wonderful photo opportunities…the backgounds really complement the bird in the first and give some very nice contrast in the others…

  4. Bob mcphersonops May 2, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Great photos, Mia.

  5. Liz Cormack May 2, 2017 at 7:10 am

    Beautiful photos.

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