A Peregrine Falcon To Try My Patience

Persistence and dogged tenacity are often prerequisites of bird photography but even then there’s no guarantee of success.


I photographed this Peregrine Falcon ten days ago along the Antelope Island causeway. The perch, some rusty old pipe on the north side of the causeway, is a familiar one to aficionados of the island – it’s a favorite perch of Common Ravens and the occasional raptor. However it’s a long ways from the road/causeway for bird photography so the first 11 images in this post have been cropped to exactly 45% of the original image (the last one is cropped to 49%).

I don’t know the sex of this bird but for the sake of convenience I’m going to refer to it as a male in this post. All images are presented in the order they were taken.

I was far enough from him that my best hope was for takeoff shots where the extended wings of the falcon would fill more of the frame. So I trained my lens on the bird and steeled myself for a long wait. This bird was comfortable!  Here I caught him in a yawn as he stood on his left foot while his right one was tucked into his belly feathers in a very relaxed pose.



Soon he gave me a leisurely wing, tail and leg stretch followed immediately after…



by a bilateral wing lift. Resting raptors often stretch just prior to takeoff so I tensed myself for the launch and waited for it to happen. And waited and waited…

But he settled back down into the same resting pose and became a bump on a log (i.e.- pipe) once again. Occasionally he was actually sleeping with his eyelids (not his nictitating membranes) closed.



Five minutes later he stretched again.



And one more time a full four minutes after that.

But this time I had hope there’d be imminent takeoff because…



he also stretched his left wing…



which was followed by another wing lift. I tensed up again and readied myself for launch…



but he returned to his “bump on a log” pose and pretty much maintained it for the next 14 minutes.



Only another bird photographer fully understands the tension and strain involved in such a situation. At this point I’d been squinting at the bird through my viewfinder and had my finger on the half-depressed shutter button for 33+ minutes waiting for him to take off. I had eyestrain and my right arm was at an awkward angle so the muscles were cramping up but I knew if I relaxed even for a moment the falcon would choose that split-second to take off so I persevered. A Peregrine Falcon in flight isn’t a shot I get every day!

Finally he turned on his perch to give me a side view but only for a moment. He was actually in the process of…



turning his back to me. I was very disappointed because it was now most likely that he’d take off away from me and all I’d get would be butt shots.

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events but somewhere in this timeframe a small group of ducks flew overhead from left to right (he was likely watching them when this shot was taken). Fairly quickly after they passed he…



took off after them and actually snagged one of them right out of the air.

After so much time with the falcon (a total of 42 minutes and 412 images) I was very disappointed that this was the best shot I got of the takeoff. The bird is already past me and looking away.



I drove east on the causeway to see if we could locate the falcon with the duck but he’d flown far out onto the ice-covered mudflats and all I could see with the naked eye was a miniscule featureless dot. This is what he and the duck looked like through my 500mm lens.

So I tucked my tail and went home. If you don’t try in these situations you have no chance but trying sure as hell isn’t a guarantee of success.

It’s all part of the game. It can be very frustrating but when we do occasionally succeed the triumph can be so very sweet…


PS – I didn’t have time to add image techs to these photos but most of them were: 1/2000 – 1/2500, f/7.1 or f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in




A Singing Meadowlark And Hopes Of Imminent Spring Dashed Again

Singing in anticipation of something happening doesn’t necessarily make it so.

  • This is an abbreviated post because I had a welcome visitor for much of the day yesterday and didn’t have time to prepare one of my typical posts. My younger sister Sheila (I always call her “Baby Sis” – she’s 6 years younger than me) visited from out-of-state and we spent the afternoon and evening catching up on recent events in our lives, telling old family stories, eating good food and just enjoying each other’s company again. We had a lot to talk about because we hadn’t seen each other for about two years. Sheila and I are the only ones left out of an immediate family of five so these reunions mean a lot to us.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I always process my images for the next day’s post the night before but when I got up this morning I had nothing prepared so I looked in my files from a year ago today (2/23/16) and found this singing Western Meadowlark taken on Antelope Island. I like the rabbitbrush perch, the droopy wing, the clean background and of course the singing pose.

What a difference a year can make! This morning as I peered into the darkness there was about 3″ of fresh snow on the ground and reports indicate that much of Box Elder County (one of my favorite shooting areas) is underwater with flooded basements, ruined furnaces and an overflowing Bear River. Sandbagging operations are in progress but there’s already a lot of damage and the forecast is for continuing snow all day. The Bear River flows into the Great Salt Lake so all that water should help with the disappearing lake but many folks are paying a dear price for it.

On an unrelated note the Canon Service Center has already sent me a bill for the repair of my 500 f/4 lens and that encourages me because it seems to indicate that they actually found something wrong that can be fixed. I don’t yet know what it is but I’ll let you know when I find out.