Portrait of a first Spring male Northern Harrier – Nikon D810, f13, 1/400, ISO 250, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited
It isn’t often that I am able to be close enough to a Northern Harrier to take a portrait of one, in fact I can only think of one time that I’ve been that fortunate and that was in May of 2016. There is a story behind this photo and this particular bird that spans an almost two month period of time.
In early April of 2016 I photographed a very cooperative first spring male Northern Harrier, young raptors can be approachable but this young harrier almost seemed oblivious to people in vehicles stopped or passing by. This harrier seemed to prefer one certain area of fence line and from there it scanned the fields on both sides of the road for prey.
Throughout April and May that year I was lucky enough to see this young Northern Harrier resting, preening, throwing pellets, flying and observing him as he strengthened his hunting skills. I was never with him very long because I didn’t want to stress him or have him get used to humans in close proximity but I always appreciated seeing him when he was around on my journeys up north.
At the end of May the young male Northern Harrier flew in and landed on a fence post so close that I had the opportunity to take a few portraits of it before he flew off and I was thrilled. He never looked up at me because he was busy scanning the ground directly below the fence post so I suspect that he had seen movement of some kind of prey there and that is why he flew in and landed so close. Before I knew it he had lifted off and flown to another nearby fence post.
I’d never processed this photo before because at the time I took it I thought I would have preferred some eye contact with the harrier but the more I think about it the more I like this image because it shows a wild bird so relaxed that is just kept on looking for prey and paid no attention to me.
The last time I photographed this particular harrier was the 30th of May that year and I have often wondered when I pass that section of road and see an adult male Northern Harrier fly past if it is the same bird. I will never know but I like to think that he is still hanging around and doing well.
Life is good.