The Clue was in the Poop
While I’m still learning the ins and outs of my camera equipment, I’ve been getting better at stealthy approaches to my subjects. So, what I lack in technical skill, I make up for with an ability to produce, on occasion, a close encounter. But I’ve been failing entirely at photographing birds in flight. And, of course, a flight photo captures the true spirit of the animal, in their unique, but most natural setting. My favorites are takeoff, when birds are stretched out full length from talons to beak, and wings are spread to the sky; and landing, when the wings gently curve to catch the air, the wing tips flutter, and the talons are thrust forward in anticipation of a landing perch. I read an article last week that suggested when some birds are getting ready to take flight, they will … ah … well, poop, to minimize their weight. It makes sense, but if I knew that natural selection preferred those that can defecate on command, I might be spending more time at home honing more than just my photography skills.
Returning home after other adventures on Saturday, I spied one of the resident Redtails perched in a dead pine snag high above one of the many canyons carving into the Jemez Mountains. I approached in my usual way: slowly and low to the ground, moving tree to tree, and keeping any available scrub oak between me and the hawk. Eventually I reached a nice spot with an open view and a means to steady my camera—close enough for decent shots, far enough away not to bother the hawk. Oh, it knew I was there, but it didn’t seem too concerned, as it let me shoot for 15 or 20 minutes. I was about to wrap it up, when the Redtail leaned forward, lifted its tail, and … ah … well, pooped. I’m even quite sure it took a snide, knowing, side-long glance my way right before the demonstration. Anyway, I quickly cranked up the shutter speed, checked the exposure, and only waited a second or two more before the hawk bent its legs ever so slightly preparing to launch. As its legs sprung, I let the continuous shooting commence, the sound of the shutter firing many times in rapid succession. This was the second shot of the series. I need to remember to stop down just a bit next time, but I’ll take it.
Red-tailed Hawk; Los Alamos, New Mexico
NatureWildlifeBirdsBirds of PreyHawksRedtailed HawkLos AlamosNew Mexico