Not everyday you photograph a hawk with its prey in a wild setting. Today, I am at a State Park in a meadow on a high hill by the Niagara River.
I mentioned before that hawks are a bit bold when they are eating dinner and are more likely to stick with it if the photographer is not bothering them.
I saw this hawk feasting when I parked my Jeep and I was hoping he just caught that starling. Seeing a shadow from above catching his eye and shielding his dinner, what is he looking at?
Why none other than Canada Geese. No problem from these grass eaters.
To my surprise, he just started devouring his meal, meaning he was likely to stay with it while I photographed. I was maybe 150 feet away when I first started taking his photo (two above, and all with a 400mm lens), and about 15 feet away, crouched down in the photos in this post. How did I get so close?
One is by remembering that this is a wild animal and I have to respect that. At first, I did not approach directly as this is a sign of aggression.
Going through the hawk’s mind is any number of things concerning me. He might be thinking I want his prey, or that I want to make him my dinner. He might think I am defending my turf, or invading his territory. If this is his thoughts he would likely flee or go on the offense. You can see above that he was well aware of me before I moved in closer and knelt down.
Now what is he looking at? Those blackbirds are really a pain in the necks to hawks.
Below a Red-tailed is tailed. More photos of a Red-tailed hawk in flight coming up.
How I got close and kept the hawk from feeling threatened was by walking in a side to side motion, never looking directly at him. I pointed the camera away from him and made it look like I was not interested in what he was doing.
I walk slowly. If he was feeling nervous because of me, I would have backed off. Looking all around, he was more concerned that another animal would take his meal than he was that I would. Nice of him to let me into his world. After I was finished taking photos, I slowly, but carefully walked backwards until I thought I could turn and walk back to my Jeep. He was busy consuming his starling and did not even notice me leaving.
In your own wildlife photography, keep an eye on the animal’s behavior. You don’t want him sacrificing his hard-earned meal just for you to get a photo. Getting his fill and leaving a big feather strewn mess behind, off he went to the large spruce trees. I am sure he was quite contented and pleased with himself.
I am off all week on bird watching tours, so you should be seeing migrating birds coming up here on GWGT. I am going to explore Lake Ontario and the nearby land areas in eastern Niagara and western Orleans County with the birders this weekend, so hopefully I will see birds I never see. They promised migrating hawks!