Swainson’s Hawk In Flight

This adult light morph Swainson’s Hawk wasΒ a good omen for my present camping trip.

Five days ago it was my first bird on my first morning here and I found it within a stone’s throw of the Montana/Idaho border. It’s always a bit of a special occasion when I cross back over the border into my home state of Montana. For me Big Sky Country will always be… home.


1/5000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

This bird and a companion sub-adult light morph Swainson’s were perched on adjacent fence posts as I approached them. Both birds were considerate enough to pose for me for a few minutes and then take off separately so I was able to get lift-off shots of each of them. I likeΒ  this wing position and the humped rump and fanned tail – both indicative of recent takeoff.

In the interest of full disclosure, this bird had an odd-looking second catch light in its eye so I removed it.

Later on this same day we discovered the Red-naped Sapsucker nest cavity with a single chick in it. We spent four evenings watching the sapsucker youngster being fed by its parents until it eventually fledged sometime yesterday so I’d say this Swainson’s Hawk truly was a good omen.



24 comments to Swainson’s Hawk In Flight

  • Thanks so much for all the comments on my posts while I’ve been in Montana and Idaho everyone. I just can’t reply to comments like I usually do while I’m in the “hinterlands” but I do read your comments and appreciate every one!

    I just got home a few hours ago and it’s an understatement to say I’m thoroughly exhausted. It always takes me at least two days to recover from these trips. Believe it or not I’m really looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow morning and STAYING HOME – nope I’m not even going shooting locally.

    I really need some recovery time. I’m spiritually rejuvenated and physically exhausted at the same time…

    • Marty K

      Welcome home, Ron! So glad you had such a great trip. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures and seeing the pictures. πŸ™‚

      • Thanks for the welcome home, Marty.

        Yes, it was a great trip and you’ll definitely be seeing photos from the past week and hearing about some of our experiences. Once again I learned more about both bird photography and bird behavior on this excursion up north. Very rewarding on both fronts!

      • Marty K

        After you’ve rested up, of course! πŸ˜‰

        • Not really, at least not for long.

          Tomorrow I’m posting a “ski jumping sapsucker” – how’s that for something a little bit different…?

          But first I sure as hell hope I can sleep in until at least 5 AM for a change. I really need to get my dopamine in balance again…

          • Laura Culley

            Ron, that’s really NOT sleeping in, dude! Take it to 7:00 a.m., and THEN you’re sleeping in…LOL! Enjoy your day!

    • Laura Culley

      I get that Ron! These payback days are more numerous in my geezerhood πŸ™‚

  • Definitely a good, and beautiful omen. Glad to hear the squawker has fledged too. The parents must be as well (and can hopefully get an occasional rest.)
    Thank you.

  • Susan Stone

    I’m glad to hear that the obnoxious chick fledged. And this Swainson’s is just gorgeous. I’ve never seen this post-take-off position before, so I’ve learned something today..

  • Stephen Clayson


    I occasionally get a second catch light in the eye in an otherwise sharp photo. So I don’t think it is camera shake or movement when the rest of the bird is sharp. I find that odd. Any explanation? Is it the apocalypse and a second sun?


  • Laura Culley

    Simply outrageously splendid to be ridiculously redundant yet again!
    And I GET the big sky thing. I think that’s what draws me to the west. The constantly changing vistas give me a primal joy–just watching how the colors of the day along with the seasonal changes as they play across the landscape. I can’t really define it to my satisfaction. Like so many other wonders, our language just doesn’t go where I want it to go. The skies in the east (of the Mississippi) CAN be big-ish, but it’s just not the same. That and I love ODing on sunshine and yearning for the occasional dreary day. East of the Mississippi, it’s often the other way around and I don’t do long-term dreary well πŸ™‚

  • Marty K

    Ditto Patty’s comments. I wonder if the squawking has subsided a little now that Baby is out and about. My guess is not so much.

    BTW, “Humped Rump” would be a great name for a garage band. πŸ˜‰

    • Laura Culley

      Personally, I think squawking babies continue squawking until a little while after the parents put them out to make a living on their own. Luckily with birds, the squawking doesn’t last THAT long. With humans, it’s a whole ‘nother deal. My next-door neighbor is dealing with a 15-year-old know-it-all. While I remember those days fondly (life was so much easier when I knew it all), it’s so annoying from the geezer perspective. πŸ™‚

      • Marty K

        I feel your pain, Laura. Try having to deal with 185 of them every day! πŸ˜‰ (The class size for HS science in our district is 37.) When I started teaching, I was an adorable brunette — now I’m an ugly grey-haired old lady! Each grey hair has a kid’s name attached to it. πŸ˜‰

        The heartening part is that the majority of 15 year-olds outgrow the know-it-all stage within a couple years, so your neighbor’s offspring will be human again soon. πŸ™‚

        • Laura Culley

          Yeah, Marty, I’d rather deal with a hormonal juvenile female redtail! At least they’re straight forward in their agenda for the day to kill you and eat you…LOL!

    • Humped Rump would be a BRILLIANT band name…

  • April Olson

    Wonderful photo of a the birds “air paddles”.

  • Patty Chadwick

    This is a beautiful omen and a beautiful shot…both bird and background…between this shot and the greedy baby sapsucker, I ‘d say your trip has already been a success…the parents of that sapsucker must be somewhat relieved that the “loudly demanding mouth” is a little closer to independence…I’m happy for them, though that baby still keeps thrm hopping…

  • Joanne OBrien

    Ditto to Judy’s comments about the brown shadings of the feathers – especially the wing tips. What a beautiful shot!

  • Barby

    Beautiful Ron, it’s just like the hawk that flies over here many times a day. Love this hawk!

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! Glad you’re getting good omens. πŸ™‚ Love the shading of browns from base to tip of wing and the detail on the feathers. At 4:30 this morning it was 78 here – never seen that. Down to 68 now (6:30)

  • Charlotte Norton

    Magnificent flight shot Ron!