“Just” A Horned Lark

It’s difficult to get some folks excited about Horned Larks but when things go right I’m not one of them.


horned lark 4537 ron dudley1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I’ve said before that I’ve grown weary of my own images of Horned Larks perched on rocks. They seem to almost always perch on small, low rocks (or bison poop) so I’m always looking for one on a more elevated, natural perch. Yesterday morning I found two Horned Larks on such perches so that in itself was a success. And I caught this one in a nice, singing pose with its “horns” erected – that’s three out of three in my book.

Apologies for the abbreviated post. I’ve had virtually no light for photography for most of the last ten days but this morning’s forecast is a glorious one so I’m chomping at the bit to get out. Today’s shooting destination is an hour and a half away from home and I need to be there at dawn so that meant getting up at 3:30 AM. Then to make the morning even more complicated, “technical issues” with my email ate up precious minutes.

Mind you, I’m not complaining – it comes with the territory. But it does make life interesting at times…




An Unusual Encounter With A Northern Harrier And A Junco

Regular readers know that occasionally I recycle an older post that I published so long ago that most current readers haven’t seen it. This post, first published in 2011 and modified from the original, is one of those.

Both of these birds did something out of the ordinary as they interacted with each other and with me.



 1/3200, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

I was photographing this male Northern Harrier out my pickup window while it was perched on the clump of snow-bent vegetation you see below the bird when I heard a soft scratching sound coming from the front of my truck. I quickly glanced to my right and noticed that a plucky Dark-eyed Junco had landed square in the middle of the hood of the truck. I thought that was unusual of course but I was more interested in the harrier so I quickly turned back to watching him through my viewfinder and it immediately became obvious that the harrier was now fixated on that junco on my hood.

I’ve spent hundreds of hours watching and photographing harriers and it’s virtually unheard of for one to take off in my direction when I’m this close to the bird. Usually the direction of take off is away from me or if I’m lucky it might be either to my left or right. But this one had apparently decided that it wanted junco for lunch and when it launched it immediately turned slightly and headed straight toward the junco on my truck hood with mayhem on its mind.




 1/3200, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

If you look carefully at his eyes in all four shots you’ll notice that he isn’t really focused on me – instead he’s looking slightly to my right, directly at the junco on the hood of the pickup. That fact becomes even more apparent as the harrier gets closer to me and to the junco.




 1/3200, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

Here he is completing his slight turn to his left (notice the tail angle) and heading directly toward the junco.




1/3200, f/8, ISO 400, Canon 7D, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4 tc, not baited, set up or called in

This was the last sharp shot I got because by now he was flying fast and my shooting angle was restricted because of the limitations of the truck window. To be perfectly honest, with this busy background so close to the bird and with him heading almost straight for me I was pleasantly surprised to get any sharp shots at all – especially with the teleconverter attached.

Looking back, part of me wishes I’d taken a moment to get a shot through the windshield of the junco on my hood with another camera but knowing my luck I’d  have missed the harrier’s take off.

And if you’re at all curious about what happened after my last shot, the harrier made it very close to my pickup and to the junco before he apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valor, changed his mind, veered off to his right and flew past my pickup within a few feet of me – too close for my lens to focus and much too fast for my reflexes.

For a split second I thought he might join me inside the truck…


PS –  In my original post some international readers weren’t aware of what a “junco” was so I’m including the image below for clarification. Dark-eyed Juncos (there are several sub-species) are common North American birds sometimes referred to as “snowbirds” for their habit of appearing at feeders during snow storms.


dark-eyed-junco-7561Dark-eyed Junco (photo taken at my feeder)