Long-tailed Weasel In A Rock Pile

Weasels are among the most interesting and challenging subjects I’ve ever photographed.  This one, from yesterday morning, fit the bill on both counts.


long-tailed weasel 2468 ron dudley

 1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

There were two weasels in the pile of rocks and debris but I only got glimpses of one of them.  Conditions were about as challenging as they come with harsh sidelight and high contrast among the deep shadows and white rocks and following this little mustelid as it hunted for prey in the crannies and crevices was about like trying to track greased lightning.  But dang it was fun!



long-tailed weasel 2357 ron dudley

  1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

In 15 minutes I never did see the weasel catch prey but it wasn’t for lack of trying.  The setting was often cluttered but I liked this nonchalant leaning pose as the weasel scanned for voles and predators.



red-tailed hawk 2537 ron dudley

    1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited or set up or called in

Once, when this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk cruised by, it was fascinating to watch the dramatic change in demeanor of the weasel from fierce and confident predator to vulnerable and cautious potential prey.  In an instant the tables had been temporarily turned and it was obvious that the weasel knew it.



long-tailed weasel 2349 ron dudley

  1/3200, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

The long body and tail (the species is well-named) make it very difficult to avoid clipping the tail and at the same time get the rest of the body in the frame and sharp with a long lens.  Its maneuvers through the rocks and crevices meant that its face and body were often partially covered with spider webs and other debris.  Here you see some of it below its left ear.



long-tailed weasel 2275 ron dudley

  1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4 tc, not baited or set up

Even though I’m always on the lookout for them, in the eight years I’ve been photographing birds I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had reasonably good opportunities with weasels so this encounter was a welcome one.  And following this little speedster with my lens as it ran over and through the rocks was a great test of (and practice for) my skills.   I had a blast!


If you’re interested here’s three other weasel posts I’ve done in the past:



Loggerhead Shrike In Full Flight

It isn’t often that I get a full-flight shot of a songbird but I did yesterday morning, thanks in part to Lady Luck who sat on my shoulder twice.


loggerhead shrike 2002b ron dudley

1/6400, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D, Canon EF500mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4x tc, canvas added for composition, not baited, set up or called in

I was photographing hummingbirds and other pollinators at our flower patch on Antelope Island when this adult Loggerhead Shrike landed on an ugly perch nearby.  I waited for takeoff by placing the bird to the far right in the frame to give it plenty of room in the direction it was looking (my left) and give me the best chance at avoiding clipped body parts when it launched in that direction (usually birds take off in the direction they are looking).

But this one fooled me and took off to my right.  In a nanosecond it was already out of frame and in frustration I instinctively jerked my lens in that direction and fired off two quick shots – a strategy that almost never works because jerking a telephoto lens invariably causes blurry subjects and the bird is nearly always out of focus by then anyway.  But this time luck saved the day in two ways:

  • by mistake my shutter speed was extremely fast (1/6400 sec) which helped to compensate for the jerked lens
  • the bird flew at a right angle to me so when the shutter clicked it was the same distance from me as it had been on the perch, which also contributed to sharpness

The bird is slightly past me but I really liked the wing position and the fact that it was in full flight rather than in the process of taking off.  I seldom get shots like that of songbirds.