Female dark morph Swainson’s Hawk calling in grasses – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
I learned a long time ago to pay attention to what is outside of my camera’s viewfinder when I am photographing birds and wildlife because in nature something else is always going on. Sometimes that means paying attention to the sights I see or the sounds I hear, a bird or animal moving into the area of my subject could mean a possible fight, territorial behaviors or interactions between different species.
Yesterday I was photographing a dark morph female Swainson’s Hawk on the ground with prey, the prey was hidden by the grasses but I had seen her tearing into it and I was hoping she’d move to a location where I had a clear view of the prey or that she’d fly off with it in her talons.
Then I heard the distinctive cry of a Northern Harrier and an answering call so I moved my eye away from the viewfinder to locate the harriers I was hearing. Both male Northern Harriers were flying towards me and the Swainson’s Hawk on the ground so I raised my lens and focused on the closest harrier hoping for some interaction between the harriers or perhaps with the Swainson’s Hawk on the ground.
Male Northern Harrier flying with prey in one talon – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
I didn’t realize until after I locked onto the Northern Harrier that he was carrying prey in his talons but as I fired away I saw him let go of his prey with one of his feet.
Northern Harrier grasping prey in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
The harrier tried to keep a grip on his prey even with just one of his feet, this photo shows him looking down at the rodent while grasping it in his talons in flight but right after this was taken the hawk dropped his prey…
Male Northern Harrier upside down diving after falling prey – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
And turned himself upside down while in flight to dive after the falling rodent. I got a dynamic pose from the bird and a butt shot from the falling rodent.
Male Northern Harrier diving after falling prey – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
In the next photo the harrier twisted his body while keeping a keen eye on his prey falling rapidly towards the ground. This was the last photo in the series of six that I took of the Northern Harrier diving after his prey, I couldn’t twist my body backwards any more than I already had from inside the mobile blind so I missed seeing whether the harrier was able to grab the prey before it hit the ground. If this action had happened while I was on foot and hand holding my gear I would have been able to see and photograph what happened next.
But… I was able to take these photos of the male Northern Harrier diving after his falling prey because I looked beyond my viewfinder and quickly locked onto the action happening overhead.
Life is good.