Peregrine Falcon, Torrey Pines

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Watch this space

I'm driving home on our high and narrow, dusty and bumpy, canyon road and I stop at the red tailed hawk's nest in the tall sycamore yesterday afternoon.

Expectant mama is sitting on her clutch, nothing much is happening, no baby heads pop up or anything and next thing I know she swoops, takes off out of the nest.

I snap a few shots, miss her while panning but after a second to adjust I see that she has landed on a telephone pole nearby with something in her sharp talons.

I have the 70-300mm nikkor zoom on my Nikon D7200, the longest lens in the quiver at present while the 50-500mm Bigma is in the shop. It had better be up to the job.

I think that it is a rabbit or squirrel, normal meals that I often see these raptors eat but it's a sort of weird shape. Oh shit, she has a huge snake. She has the head pinned with a talon and she is eating it alive while it coils up and changes shape.

At first I think its a rattlesnake but later realize it isn't when I start processing the pictures this morning. You will have to forgive me, I was an approximate football field away.

I was shooting on a monopod, moving very quietly, very carefully and cautiously and taking it all in.

Of course the mother is now used to me, I have been taking her picture daily for over two months and I am no longer a major threat.

Been shooting a combination of RAW and jpeg fine while I wait for Adobe to catch up with Nikon.

The RAW images should be much better and I will be able to hopefully fix a few minor errors after the NEF processing.

Extraordinary. never seen anything like it. Eating huge strips of live snake flesh. Mama hawk is ripping this poor snake to shreds.

I take pictures from several angles, walk right under the pole and continue to shoot for what I estimate is over 45 minutes.

I am bracketing and changing crop modes as well as iso, taking my time and trying to get it right. At some point the snake loses its head.

Not sure how sharp this particular lens is at the distance, not a professional piece of glass, we will see.

The experience was amazing, you could hear the snake bang repeatedly against the crossbeam from 100 yards away.

I think she is going to fly away with it but I don't get to see that this time. I love seeing birds flying with snakes and it has been a while. Feel like I am trapped in the Mexican flag when that happens.

Out of the corner of my eye I see that we now have a visitor. Another hawk shows up out of nowhere.

The new bird seizes the snake, mother gets pissed and puts on a large wing display in order to intimidate the intruder.

They get into a little tangle and the interloper ultimately backs off. Mother takes possession. Hawk number two soon flies into the safety of a nearby tree.

Mother chases it out of the area. "And stay out."
Don't mess with a mother to be.

I shot a whole card worth of pictures, had to dump some to make room for more shots. Got the new hawk flying, very excited to see how these shots turn out.

I watched as mother sailed back to her eggs, very pleased with myself and ready to pack it up, a rather amazing afternoon of photography and witnessing animal behavior.

About fifty yards further there is a very mature but diminutive rattler in the middle of the road. all very cool. I took a lot of pictures yesterday, many that I am very happy with. So many that it is hard to figure out which ones to post.


Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Very exciting. I'll be watching.

J.W. said...

Wonderful...thank you!

Max Hall said...

You nailed it Blue! Great job.

Anonymous said...

Super cool photo's. My favorite is the one where the 2 hawks are fighting over the snake with wings spread. A lot of action in our neighborhood! Beth C

Anonymous said...

Some of your best bird photography since the inception of the Blast!
The two hawks fighting over the snake is the pinnacle, and the clarity of all the photos is very fine. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Amazing sequence with the hawks .... every year I look forward to your hawk portfolio.
Irma used to talk to them when we lived in the avo orchard in Santa Barbara.


Anonymous said...

Way cool!! Toni Crisell

Anonymous said...

Amazing photography!
National Geographic needs you.


Anonymous said...

robert-the hawk and snake shots are killer!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing pics of the Hawk!!!

Anonymous said...

What luck encountering and observing. Excellent photos of hawk behavior.


Anonymous said...

Awesome I may need one of these shots to frame. Hawks mesmerize me always.
Deli friend