A Swainson’s Hawk And Lupine

I don’t often take “pretty pictures” but for my tastes this one fills the bill.


1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this Swainson’s Hawk 16 days ago on the edge of Montana’s Centennial Valley. Even though the bird is fairly small in the frame this is one of my favorite photos from the trip because I like the natural setting so much. Blooming lupines in the valley provided expansive swaths of blue in the landscape while I was there but I found it very difficult to include them in my photos of birds. My avian subjects just don’t seem to have my appreciation for the beauty of wildflowers.

Shortly before this shot was taken the bird was perched out of frame to the right where there were no flowers in view and I had taken off my teleconverter in case “he” took off (so I was less likely to clip any body parts). Instead he walked a short distance to my left and perched on this rock for a few seconds and that little stroll put the lupine in the background. If I hadn’t removed my tc I’d have never been able to include most of the flowers in the photo.

In this case I had good timing for a change.


Note: This hawk had feather damage to its right wing (in this photo some of it can barely be seen on the leading ventral wing surface where the plumage is dark brown). In a few other shots that damage can be seen a little more clearly – the wing appears to have been singed, probably by contact with electrical wires. Thankfully the hawk could fly and acted normally so I believe its next molt will repair the damage.

If that’s what happened this hawk had a very close call.



37 comments to A Swainson’s Hawk And Lupine

  • Barby

    I think this is a favorite for sure, thank you Ron!

  • No, you don’t often do pretty. MAGNIFICENT is more your style.
    Love the lupine and the hawk – and yes, definitely a very close call if that is what caused the damage to its wings. The equivalent of being struck by lightening and surviving.

  • Susan Stone

    That is a beautiful photo. I like it that you occasionally include the background in the photo so we can get a feel for the surroundings.

  • Jean Haley

    You can’t have it better then that. Different hues of green, pretty purple plants, and a gorgeous bird!

  • Trudy Brooks

    I say that is a Winner!!

  • Marty K

    Lovely. Lovely. Lovely. The intense colors of the hawk and the sharpness of the bird, plants and rocks in the foreground that gently meander to the softer greens and blues in the background. Lovely! 🙂

    I’ve been “off the grid” while visiting a friend in NV the past few days. They used to live in the “sticks,” but it’s now built up all around them. 🙁 I enjoyed driving through the desert — got a lot of time to see it because of an accident on the 15 yesterday, but I was stopped by a bunch of Joshua trees (one of my very favorite plants!) close by and some beautiful rock formations in the distance, so I was able to soak it all in. (While soaking in the car — it was 111 and “dry heat” or not, that’s freakin’ hot! I had turned my car off because we sat for about 20 minutes while the road was cleared up ahead.)

  • Just the right amount of flowers makes it pretty or actually down right beautiful but not sicky sweet Hallmark.

  • Alice Beckcom

    It is wonderful that you were given the opportunity to take this beautiful photo of this hawk. Hopefully you are right about the next mold repairing the damage.

    We’ve not seen the number of birds in our neighborhood that visited us in prior years. Maybe the intense heat is impacting this. I’d head to cooler temperatures if I were a bird and had somewhere else to go!!!!

  • Laura Culley

    I love this image, too! I love the background lupines, and well, basically ALL the elements in this one!
    When we lived in Texas, a photographer friend of mine took photos of the various education birds with On The Wing Again perched among the profusion of Texas bluebonnets. Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it that day, so I missed the opportunity to have a spectacular photo of Mariah in that spectacular background. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you want it. SIGH!

    • Sounds like you missed a wonderful opportunity, Laura. Thank you.

      • Laura Culley

        I did miss a wonderful opportunity, but life happens. The photos were magnificent of all the birds, but I especially liked the one of Sky Dancer, the cranky, oftentimes grumpy and beautiful female redtail. Go figure! Well, there was also my buddy, Alexander, the black vulture. 🙂

  • Dick Harlow

    As others have said beautiful bird, beautiful image!! Love this phase.
    I haven’t recorded a Tree or Barn Swallow since the end of June. THAT is early from my records!
    For some reason our bird diversity and butterfly diversity is down this year compared to past years. Disturbing!

    • There’s lots of ominous signs out there, Dick. Disturbing is right.

    • Patty Chadwick

      I find your comment particularly disturbing, Dick…because we niticed the same…instead of the multiple bird sounds we used to notice, we had a pretty, disturbingly “silent spring” ….we haven’t had the usual numbers and variety of birds or of squawking baby birds either…at times, when I ince heard a din of bird sounds, I might hear one or two birds…usually a single titmouse, cardinal or a mourning dove…in fact, I remarked on this to Ron…it was scary!!!

      • Dick Harlow

        When we humans don’t learn from the Natural World and the expertise of others we WILL repeat the mistakes we have made in the past! Unfortunately, that is what I see, history repeating itself! I won’t taint this blog by being political.

  • Patty Chadwick

    That IS a beautiful picture! The colors, the plants, the bitd, the textures, the composition–all in a beautiful harmony…

  • April Olson

    Beautiful colors. Life is tough out there and sadly we humans make it hard on our wild neighbors.

  • A joy… thanks! I enjoyed comment about birds not appreciating the beauty of wildflowers. Wouldn’t you love to live inside their heads for a bit, to experience their unique senses and drives? I certainly would!

  • Charlotte Norton

    It’s Beautiful!


  • Joanne OBrien

    Beautiful Photograph! Love the lupines! Thanks.

  • Judy Gusick

    Beautiful! Couldn’t get that again trying! 🙂 Amazing it didn’t get electrocuted if that’s what happened…. On another note most of the Robins have left already and it’s nowhere near Labor Day. Swallows are also gathering as they do before they leave and yard in general is pretty quiet. Hope it doesn’t mean we’re going to go from hot to “winter” early tho we could use some moisture……..

    • Judy, Many of our migrants seem to have left early too. Birds are unusually hard to come by around here right now – don’t know what’s going on.