There are times I save photos that I have taken that might not be sharp or aren’t the best quality, sometimes it is for documenting a rarity, interesting behavior or because I find the subject fascinating but wasn’t able to take high quality images due to circumstances beyond my control, like photographing when the engine is still on.
I have an image in a book about birds in Pinellas County, Florida birds that makes me cringe every time I think about it because I was photographing a White-tailed Kite hovering over a fresh water lagoon with the sun behind it and the images were just awful but that was the first record of a White-tailed Kite in the county in over 90 years. So I allowed the use of a crappy image in that book for the confirmation of the record.
I also keep images of birds that look a bit messy because they are molting even if they aren’t up to my standards, like this one-year-old Red-tailed Hawk that was rapidly molting the end of July in 2015. Not a beautiful hawk in molt but still fascinating to me.
The Red-tail was next to a country road and stopping was difficult because of traffic, as I recall a combine was coming up the road so all of the images I took were on the fly, no time to change settings or anything.
The head feathers are light on this hawk because they were bleached out by the sun but it was the messy, ragged looking tail feathers transitioning to what we normally see in a Red-tailed Hawk that caught my eye first.
I sent these images to Peter Pyle; author of the Identification Guide to North American Birds, biologist and bird expert, who was using a few of my photos for an article on molting birds in the ABA‘s Birding magazine and he wrote this about my hawk:
“For this RTHA, which is undergoing a rather rapid second-prebasic molt at a year of age. The two brown feathers in the right wing are the 4th and 9th secondaries (from the outside), typically the last secondaries replaced as I discuss in the article.”
This photo is terrible but I wanted to include it because it shows the ratty looking tail of this molting Red-tailed Hawk so well.
Right now our Red-tailed Hawks don’t look messy but as the summer goes on I will probably find more ratty looking, molting birds like this one.
Life is good. Birds make it better.