Hawks

A harvest hawk

As farmers harvest their crops, hawks enjoy using the hay bales to scout for field mice.  This rough-legged hawk stared at me from her perch for a moment before returning her attention to the field.


Evening flight

I found a Swainson’s hawk south of Cochrane last week.  When the bird eventually pushed off from this tangle of branches I took a couple of photographs with the wings at full extension.


Hawkeye

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in flight - © Christopher Martin-7452-2

I found this juvenile Red-tailed hawk perched on a treetop west of Bragg Creek facing towards me.  As always, I hoped for a launch in my direction.  Sometimes it happens, this time it didn’t.  I kept tracking the bird as it flew away and when it banked gently to the left I squeezed off a few frames.  I was very lucky to catch this one with a clear shot of the eye which elevated it considerably.  The Red-tails are returning in droves to southern Alberta now – I am looking forward to seeing them much more again.


Red-tailed flights in Turner Valley

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3798

On my return from the two separate visits with Great Horned Owls near High River, I drove past Okotoks, through Black Diamond and Turner Valley and then back to Bragg Creek.  I counted more than twenty five hawks before I reached Priddis.  Along the way, I stopped a couple of times that were in interesting locations.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3755

 

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3733

One Red-tailed hawk was hunting from a wooden gate and fence dividing a farm from the highway.  This hawk dove once while I was set up – it was great to observe an attack from close range thanks to a long telephoto lens.  It returned to the post empty-taloned but then launched out over the field and grabbed a mouse when it neared the far side.  Too far for a decent photograph but great to watch.

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3786

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3787

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3797

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3799

Turner Valley Hawks - © Christopher Martin-3801


Turner Valley Hawk

Red-tailed in Turner Valley

A Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) launches over the fields near the town of Turner Valley in Alberta, Canada.


Swainson’s Hawk in Springbank

Swainson's launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Driving with the kids along Lower Springbank Road, I was hoping there would be some hawks hunting along the freshly tilled fields out that way.  On the second or third field my son spied a light morph Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) standing on a fence post.

Field hunting - 2014 © Christopher Martin

We watched it make a few short flights over the soil before heading continuing on.  Spring is a great time for driving, and photographing, on the prairies.

Swainson's Hawk extended - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Full extension

A Red-tailed Hawk launches off a post on the prairie west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.  2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

When this Red-tailed hawk launched off the post I had been watching him on for a few minutes, I was really impressed by the power and balance displayed.   He flew closer and then went to the ground after circling back towards the fenceline.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t an attacking dive only an uninspired landing in the tall grass.

ed-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher MartinCanon 5DIII and 500mm lens: 1/2000 second at f/4 on ISO 800

 

 


Red-tailed Hawks in flight

Above and below - 2014 © Christopher Martin

With Red-tailed Hawks back in our area, I’m still enjoying the novelty of their return.  I went out on the weekend and found a few more who I had the opportunity to photograph in flight.  The snow stole a couple of shots by throwing the auto focus off but it added character that more than made up for those.

Fence launch - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Field flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Extension - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Snow flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

 


Red-tailed Hawks have returned to the prairies

Red-tailed flight - 2014 © Christopher Martin

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have the good sense to avoid winter on the prairies and they head south in late fall each year.  It’s always exciting when they start to return and I have been seeing them more and more over the last couple of weeks.  A little while ago, I found this one perched in a great, wild-looking tree along Highway 8, west of Calgary.

Perched but ready to fly - 2014 © Christopher Martin

I could see the hawk was getting ready to fly so I watched from the ditch for a minute until it launched.  There was a second hawk, presumably its mate, in a tight stand of trees so I figured that would be the direction it flew.

Flying through the trees - 2014 © Christopher Martin

It landed beside its partner and when I drove past them I could see a nest buried in the far side of the trees.  Photographs of the nest would not be in their best interest but I hope to see chicks fledge later in the spring.

Perched together - 2014 © Christopher Martin


Winter’s raptor

Prairie hunter - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The Rough-legged hawks (Buteo lagopus) have arrived along the prairies with winter back.  Along with Snowy owls, they will dominate the skies until well into spring.

Launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin
I was excited to see Snowies a couple of times in the morning last weekend but they were less enthused to see me and flew away before I could stop.  This hawk was much more tolerant, I was able to photograph it for half an hour as it perched and flew along the fence line.

Rough command - 2013 © Christopher Martin


Hawks on the Prairie

Evening perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This summer has been very good for hawk watchers on the prairies around Calgary.  To the west around the Springbank area I have spent a number of afternoons watching mostly Swainson’s Hawks scouting over the fields.

Arond the phone line - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This is a small set from a few of these encounters.  I looking forward to a few more before fall comes and these fair-weather friends head south.

2013 © Christopher Martin

This hawk above was staring me down from her nest while I stopped briefly to see if her chick was looking out yet.  On a separate visit, I saw the young one’s stare was equal to its mother’s.

2013 © Christopher Martin

Earlier in the summer, on the same day as my running fox encounter, I was watching a female hawk on this ranch entrance when its mate swooped down.  When I saw the bird descending, as below, I thought it was attacking but it was getting closer for other reasons.

Could you be loved? 2013 © Christopher Martin

2013 © Christopher Martin

The hawk above had just finished a meal when I came by its perch on a fence near the airport.  It preened for a while before launching for a higher viewing point.  It stayed in the skeleton tree below before flying through the bare branches and gliding over the fields.

2013 © Christopher Martin

On one of the rainy mornings that I was out, this hawk flew alongside me for a few seconds which was really cool.  When it crossed over to the driver’s side and banked back, I caught the nice image of the downstroke of his wings below.

2013 © Christopher Martin

I will be trading the opportunity to photograph these wonderful raptors for the wild residents of Prince Rupert’s coastal rainforest next week.  I’m always excited about a return to the province I grew up in and especially when it is to visit a part of British Columbia that is new to me.  We will see what opportunities present themselves starting tomorrow.


Prairie Hawks in flight

Banking in and looking out - 2013 © Christopher Martin

With spring sprung, there are an abundance of hawks wheeling in the sky over the Prairies now.  Through the winter, the Rough-legged hawks had the air to themselves and now Red-tailed, Swainson’s and Broad-wings have joined them.  This dark morph Swainson’s was beautiful and wheeled around me for a couple of turns.

Red-tailed Hawk - 2013 © Christopher Martin

This Red-tailed hawk screamed at me when I stopped to photograph it flying over the fields.  It flew beside me and let loose one of the shrieks that Hollywood still often uses to dub over the Bald Eagle’s less impressive one.

Red-tailed launch - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Another Swainson’s launched out of this tree and looked beautiful in the warm, evening light.

Curious - 2013 © Christopher Martin

One other Red-tailed watched me out of the corner of its eye as it glided past but saved any vocalizations for another time.  This hawk was one of the few I saw that wasn’t flying.  I did not see a nest nearby so I think the bird was just taking a break from hunting.

Perch - 2013 © Christopher Martin