Male Rough-legged Hawk At Takeoff

I’ve taken the low-road with this beautiful hawk and done some significant image manipulation in one version of the photo.

 

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, canvas added for composition, not baited, set up or called in

This bird, photographed five days ago in Box Elder County, is making his second appearance on Feathered Photography. A few days ago I posted another image of him in flight but this photo was taken immediately after liftoff from a power pole. I like the splayed feet, flared tail, excellent eye contact and the good look at almost his entire ventral surface.

But there were two things I didn’t like about the original image so I held my nose and made some alterations to this version of the photo that I don’t normally do.

  • The hawk was too close to the right side of the frame for pleasing composition so I added canvas there.
  • The insulator on the power pole that the bird took off from was still visible at lower left so I removed it.

 

 

This is the image before I removed the insulator and wire (it includes the added canvas).

To be honest I don’t know which version I prefer. In the first version his takeoff posture suggests the presence of a perch that isn’t there but on the other hand I sure don’t like insulators and wires in my images. Since I don’t like to do this kind of image manipulation and I can’t decide which version I prefer anyway I probably should have just left the insulator in the photo and let it go at that. But I’m curious about what others might think so I’ve presented both versions.

When it comes to image manipulation I believe that full disclosure is always the best (and the only honest) policy.

Ron

 

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Northern Harrier Technique For Taking Off In Thick Brush

Northern Harriers often dive into thick vegetation after prey. Getting out of there can be tricky.

 

1/2500, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Yesterday morning at Farmington I saw this harrier dive on prey in the thick brush and then watched through my lens as it was consumed. I couldn’t tell for sure what it was but I’m pretty confident it was a vole. Then the bird cleaned its beak and walked a foot or two to a slightly more open area in preparation for takeoff. But takeoff was going to be a challenge given all the vegetation and those very long wings.

The more vertical the takeoff could be the better so the hawk squatted down to push straight up with its legs and raised its wings high over its body in preparation for the first down stroke meant to lift its body as vertically as possible. There were so many obstructing stems that some of the flight feathers in its right wing were momentarily caught in the vegetation and bent fairly dramatically as it was raised.

 

 

1/2500, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

As the wings began their first down stroke the hawk pushed straight up with its legs and as a result this photo caught the hawk on its tippy-toes.

 

 

1/2500, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

As vertically as this bird tried to take off it still had some forward momentum which placed vegetation directly in its path and those stems had to be dealt with. So the hawk used its feet in lightning-quick movements to grasp and push off of some of the stems which accomplished two things: it pushed some of the stems out of the way and it allowed the bird to gain additional elevation.

This is my favorite image of the series.

 

 

1/2500, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

As it began to clear the vegetation the hawk was still looking down at possible obstructions in its path – at this point they’d typically be looking forward. That head position prevented me from getting eye contact or a catch light in many of these and several other photos of the takeoff.

As raptors negotiate obstructions in their flight path at takeoff I often wonder how much of it might be planned and how much is due simply to incredibly fast reflexes. That’s a question I’ve posed before on my blog with a Red-tailed Hawk taking off from deep within a tree cluttered with obstructing branches. Before that bird took off it appeared? to be planning its escape route.

I wish I knew the answer but it’s interesting to speculate about. Personally I think they do plan ahead but to what degree I just don’t know. I suspect it varies from species to species and even among individuals of the same species – just like humans.

Ron

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