Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk – The Lone Survivor

A one out of three survivor rate sure isn’t as high as I hoped for but I do think this one’s going to make it.

Four days ago I went looking for any survivors of the original three young Red-tailed Hawks that had been blown out of their nest by severe winds many weeks ago. Readers will remember that we found one of the three as road kill and originally I had high hopes for the other two. But before our camping trip to Montana April Olson of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah had let me know that she noticed one of the two youngsters struggling with a wing issue so she and others captured it and discovered that it had a shattered wing. They took it to WRCNU for possible rehab but the wing was so badly damaged there was nothing they could do so it had to be euthanized.

It goes without saying that it was a difficult loss for all of us.


1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400mm, not baited, set up or called in

Because of our camping trip I hadn’t been to the area of the original blown-down nest for a while but four days ago I visited again and was delighted to find the lone survivor doing very well. He (or she, I don’t know the sex) was perched on part of a large metal corral but some distance from the original nest site. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see him doing well after the loss of both of his siblings that I’d followed for so long.

His perch wasn’t the best for photography because he was partially obscured by a metal fence rail in front of him. But after a while he seemed to take pity on my photography frustrations…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

so he took off…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

giving me a few flight shots in the process…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

and headed for another nearby part of the corral…



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 286mm, not baited, set up or called in

where I had an unobstructed view. The light in these shots is very warm because it was early morning and there was lots of moisture and haze in the area to the east.



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, not baited, set up or called in

Here’s a “perspective shot” taken soon after he landed (but at a different angle) to give you a feel for the layout of the setting.

  • This is the kind of photo that drives me just a little bit batty. With all of the graphic lines in the image not a single one of them gave me what I thought would be an accurate indicator of true level so I didn’t know how to rotate the image to achieve it (the corral was built on a slope). Even the supposedly vertical posts don’t all agree with each other. I keep going back to try to figure it out…

I do wish all three of the youngsters had survived but as I approached the area of the original nest I had prepared myself as best I could to find another dead or injured hawk (or no bird at all) so it was quite a relief to discover this one doing so well.

It could have been worse.


Note: I’ve put off posting these images for a few days because of server issues. This post obviously required multiple images but to minimize stress on the old server I’ve only been posting single images so I couldn’t post all of these photos until now.

Yes, the move to the new server is finally complete! Big thanks to Mia for all her help in getting it done.

Please let me know of any glitches you may notice on your end.





A Wary Bull Elk In Montana’s Centennial Valley

Note: As of a little while ago my blog has now been moved to the new server and that has caused some issues with this post. I originally posted it early this morning but when the blog was moved that post was lost in the transition so I’ve now posted it again. That’s why subscribers got a second email with the link to the post. All comments made on the old post this morning were lost – sorry about that!

Hopefully there will be no more problems but if you notice something “haywire” on your end please let me know. Apologies for the inconvenience and confusion!


This bull was far from a relatively “tame” National Park elk. He was wild, extremely wary, nervous and high-strung.

There’s a robust elk herd in Montana’s Centennial Mountains but the hunting pressure on them is intense so in my experience it’s unusual to find them out in the open and exposed Centennial Valley to the north. But during the night some of them occasionally come out to feed in the valley and if you’re the first to drive the “South Road” at sunrise you have a small chance of catching them out in the open.

elk 2577 ron dudley
1/1600, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender

That’s exactly what happened with this bull in velvet two weeks ago during my camping trip to the area. The road runs between the mountains and the valley where he was feeding so he and another bull with him felt cut off and threatened by my pickup because I blocked their quick access to the safety of the wooded and largely roadless mountains. They spotted my pickup before we saw them and they took off running to the west in order to get far enough away from us before they headed back to the mountains.

At one point they both stopped and turned toward me to see what I was doing and that’s when I got this photo and a handful of others. Seconds later they turned their pale butts to me and were gone.

Some regular blog followers may have noticed that I spend very little time in National Parks photographing mammals. Yellowstone for example is only a hop, skip and a short jump from the Centennial Valley but I’ve only been there twice in recent decades and each time I beat a quick retreat. Crowds, traffic, congestion and wildlife that is often so acclimated to humans that they hardly bat an eye in our presence holds little appeal for me – especially when my experience in the “wild” is ruined by the cacophony of dozens of other cameras sounding like Gatling guns in my ears every time a critter scratches, blinks or farts.

Photographers in places like Yellowstone, Grand Tetons or Hardware Ranch may routinely get better photos of elk than this one. But I watched the truly wild and naturally evasive behavior of this bull and I didn’t have to share the experience with hordes of others and for me that flavors the image in a way that I’d be less likely to duplicate in a National Park.

If that sounds selfish and/or elitist of me, so be it. I really don’t mean it that way but I yam what I yam…