19 May 2011

Swainson's Hawk in glorious color

Swainson's  hawk stooping
This weekend I set out on bird watch with the sole purpose of capturing images of some of the water fowl and smaller species of bird that are returning to the area, or just passing through to their summer breeding grounds.  However, it goes without saying that when I see, and have the opportunity to photograph a hawk or an eagle, I will take it because I simply derive a great  deal of joy from watching them.

Of all the hawks that I have seen and photographed, the Swainson's hawk seems to be my constant companion.   I see this hawk, more often than not, every summer.   It doesn't seem to matter where I am, or what I am doing at the time.  As a result, some of my best wildlife photos feature this particular raptor.

Swainson's Hawk in flight
So when I reached my destination for the day, a pond that is somewhat out of the way, I was happy, but unsurprised, to be greeted by a Swainson's immediately upon arrival.   Now for some reason that I have yet to figure out, lately my camera simply refuses to focus properly on any bird flying in the sky, and this time was no different.  Although I tried, it just wasn't happening.  The result was quite a few badly blurred shots and more than just a few soft curses.  After a great deal of frustration, I eventually lost track of the hawk altogether and simply returned to my original purpose.  But, after an hour or so spent taking a couple of hundred photographs of small and unfamiliar birds, I really lucked out in the way of opportunities.  This opportunity came with a challenge however.

In the tree top
Around one side of this pond stands a very small forest, and behind that, a couple of farmer's fields.  I was walking around between one of those fields and the little forest searching for more birds, when one spoke.  That is to say, it voiced a sound I had never heard, which had me searching immediately for the source and it took less than a minute to find it.  Sitting high in a tree top, in the middle of the mini forest, in full light and glorious color, was the Swainson's Hawk.

Swainson's in glorious color
Now, as it happens, the weather was nearly perfect for outdoor photography.  Except for the wind.  It was gusting so badly that I almost lost my hat a couple of times and there was absolutely nothing to shelter the trees from the force of that wind.  Branches were constantly jostled about violently, and the trees themselves were swaying wildly.

It was a focusing nightmare for a photographer, especially an amateur like myself.  But seeing the Swainson's hawk so clearly and so perfectly portrayed, meant that I really wanted some photos showing him just like that.  I didn't hesitate for an instant.   Although, as I was taking pictures of this magnificent bird, with my shutter on the fastest possible speed, I was sending out a general prayer to the universe for the pictures to come out clear.

The windy conditions had me twisting, turning, crouching and stretching myself to keep the hawk in view of the camera's lens, but in the process I got one of those feelings that said simply: some of the photos turned out alright.   By the time the hawk flew off, my memory card was full, which meant I was done for the day.  I headed home happy and totally wired with excitement.  In fact, I was so excited that I didn't even take time, like I usually do, to eat and drink something before I sat down at the computer to upload the photos.  As you can see from the last two photos above, if you click to enlarge them, I had good reason to be and good reason to share.  


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