February 11, 2008

Ambush

After giving Harvey a bath this afternoon I was out on our front sidewalk trying to coax a very uncooperative velvet ant into a good pose for a picture (those little buggers never sit still!). While I was crouched in the dead grass fighting with the macro feature on our camera I heard a sound like a model rocket wooshing over my head. I looked up in time to see a grey blur zooming toward our bird feeders. In a flurry of tiny feathers, the thirty juncos that had been gorging themselves on sunflower seeds vanished. On a stump in the midst of the abandoned feast sat a very disappointed Cooper's Hawk.

She gazed around the now empty yard checking for stragglers and found none. And with a shrug (I swear I heard a sigh), she leapt into the air to perch on a large cottonwood behind our house and compose herself. I had forgotten there was a camera in my hand.

After several frantic seconds trying to switch it off of the macro setting, I brought the camera to my eye and started shooting. I was just in time to see her take off and begin an elegant soaring flight directly overhead.






As I was taking these pictures I noticed she wasn't alone. Suddenly there were a pair of Cooper's Hawks soaring overhead. At that precise moment I somehow I managed to switch the camera back into macro mode, where it promptly got stuck. Another thirty seconds spent fighting with the lens meant that when I finally did get it focused on the sky again, the second hawk was gone. I had completely missed an opportunity to capture two soaring Cooper's Hawks together. Or so I thought, until I downloaded the pictures a few minutes later.

Just looking at these birds I wouldn't think the juncos stand a chance.

7 comments:

Sandra said...

Great shots! I lurk here on your blog all the time and envy your job and surroundings. Though I would never give up the Jersey shore and Appalachian Mts for birding, I would love to come and visit sometime. Right now I am finishing up my very long undergrad degree in enviro science with a concentration in ornithology. All that to ask you a simple camera question :) I am getting a new camera from my hubby for a grad gift and I was wondering what you have. Those shots were great. If you want you can comment again here and I will check back or you can get to me at www.cavalierarts.net/charis. Thanks!

Steve said...

how on earth could you not know you got that shot of both hawks? i admit that i too am a pretty lousy photographer, but i don't think there's any way i could miss that. nice (lucky) shot by the way.

P. Ollig said...

Well, for years I was using a simple point-and-shoot Canon powershot. But I had always wanted a digital SLR, so last September my wife allowed me to get a Canon EOS Rebel XTi (also called the 400D) as my birthday present for the next 10 years.

It's a great camera, and very user friendly. Although if you've never used an SLR camera and don't know much about aperature and shutter speed, it may take a bit of experimenting before you start getting the hang of it.

I just sort of forced myself to figure it out by never using the preset functions. Keeping on manual all the time really helps.

Also, be sure to get the best lens you can afford with the camera. Because we were spending $800 on the camera, we only had a little more for a telephoto lens, so I got one of the cheapest 300mm lenses around. I'm not saying it's a bad lens, but as I've developed my photography skills I've come to realize the thing holding me back right now is that lens. If you want to chat a bit more about lenses, feel free to email me (pjollig@gmail.com).

kippur said...

Nice action shots Paul. I have a few "action shots" of Avery to post on my blog but It's not that impressive. She doesn't move as fast as a hawk.

P. Ollig said...

But...

Does the kid have large talons?

Amy said...

Awesome photos Paul, of some of my favorite raptors. Those guys (and gals) are fierce.

T.R. said...

Fantastic shots Paul!