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Northern Harrier

Male Northern Harrier on patrol

Taken back in January on a very cold afternoon. This handsome guy was hunting the roadside, looking for a meal and was kind enough to give me a number of nice captures. The male Northern Harrier is nicknamed the Gray Ghost, due to its color and its knack for staying hidden.

You’ll find Harriers across much of North America, Europe and Asia depending on the season. Here we call them Northern Harriers but in other spots on the globe they are known as Hen Harriers, Harrier Hawks or Marsh Hawks.

A male Northern Harrier - the Gray Ghost - on the hunt on the Great Plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier – the Gray Ghost – on the hunt on the Great Plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

The Gray Ghost patrols the plains

During the winter, Northern Harriers are pretty common on the Colorado plains but getting pictures of them is never easy. They don’t sit still for long, are notoriously camera shy and when they fly, they are highly erratic in their paths and very close to the ground.

The male Northern Harrier is nicknamed the Gray Ghost, due to its color and its knack for staying hidden. Historically I haven’t had a lot of luck with getting good captures of them but this winter, for some reason, I have had better luck which is very pleasing to me. Late last month I happened across this one as it zigzagged over a field looking for a meal. That beautiful plumage and those brilliant yellow eyes are just striking.

You’ll find Harriers across much of North America, Europe and Asia depending on the season. Here we call them Northern Harriers but in other spots on the globe they are known as Hen Harriers, Harrier Hawks or Marsh Hawks.

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A male Northern Harrier - the Gray Ghost - patrols the Colorado plains.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier – the Gray Ghost – patrols the Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Female Northern Harrier guards its kill

My goodness, what a charmed encounter with this beauty! Driving along a dirt road in Adams County, Colorado, I see what clearly is a hawk on the ground in the open and not 10 feet from the road. That struck me as odd and as I looked closer, I could see it was a female Northern Harrier.

Very slowly I drove closer and much to my amazement, she didn’t flee. I stopped and started snapping pictures and soon realized why she didn’t want to leave. She was guarding a kill – a rabbit. I snapped bunches of pictures as she stood nearby, hesitant to approach it.

As it would turn out, she was being watched by something else, a young Red-Tailed Hawk, that I hadn’t noticed. The other raptor would eventually scare her off and claim the meal, a bit of action I failed to capture well. However, I was absolutely thrilled to get these pics of the Harrier. They are notoriously camera shy and these are probably the best sitting pics of one I have ever gotten.

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier stands in the open of the snow-covered Colorado plains. (© Tony’s Takes)

Northern Harrier on patrol over the plains

I happened across this pretty lady as she flew fast and low over some fields, undoubtedly looking for a meal. She did dive to the ground at one point but came up empty handed.

These pics show why it is so hard to get a quality picture of these raptors. They typically fly very low to the ground and cameras have a hard time focusing on them as the gear struggles to pick them out from the ground. Every now and then though I can get things right and capture some decent shots.

You’ll find these hawks across much of North America, Europe and Asia depending on the season. Here we call them Northern Harriers but in other spots on the globe they are known as Hen Harriers, Harrier Hawks or Marsh Hawks.

A female Northern Harrier patrols the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier patrols the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier patrols the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier patrols the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Female Northern Harrier enforces the No Passing Zone

Driving along north of Denver International Airport this past Sunday my son and I come across a hawk perched on top of the sign. I was unable to tell what kind it was so we pull over and I point my camera at it to get a better look. Just as I lift my camera up, my son yells, “Incoming! Here comes another!”

Quickly I squeezed off a couple of captures as a female Northern Harrier takes a swipe at the first hawk, chasing it off. None of the pictures came out great but this one isn’t too bad and is a fun and unique capture.

Oh, and that first hawk? It was a Rough-legged Hawk, a raptor that spends summers in the Arctic, winters in the lower 48.

A Northern Harrier chases off a Rough-legged Hawk.  (© Tony’s Takes)

A Northern Harrier chases off a Rough-legged Hawk. (© Tony’s Takes)

Male Northern Harrier makes fast moving appearance

Driving along a few days ago I spot a good-sized bird flying low and fast toward me from the side. Slamming on the brakes (I was a on a lonely dirt road), I quickly roll down the window and swing my camera around. As it grabbed focus on the fast-mover, I was excited to discover the object was a male Northern Harrier – the Gray Ghost.

These hawks are relatively common but not often seen and the males in particular seem to have a reluctance about having their picture taken. I usually only see them in the winter so seeing one in the summer and having it be the gorgeous gray male was a special treat. He never did get all that close but I managed some nice captures as he flew by nevertheless.

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier flies across the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

The Gray Ghost guards its meal

Northern Harriers are notoriously difficult to get pictures of and the males, nicknamed the Gray Ghost, seem to be even more so. They shy away from people and their erratic flight patterns close to the ground make it tough to get a lock on them.

I was absolutely tickled to come across this gorgeous guy as he circled a road kill and, best of all, he was willing to forgive my presence in order to secure a meal. In the process, I captured a series of images that were by far my best of this hawk to date.

You’ll find these hawks across much of North America, Europe and Asia depending on the season. Here we call them Northern Harriers but in other spots on the globe they are known as Hen Harriers, Harrier Hawks or Marsh Hawks.

Taken in Adams County, Colorado on February 6, 2016.

A male Northern Harrier, the Gray Ghost, circles its meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier, the Gray Ghost, circles its meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

Gray Ghost in a head on pursuit

To say I am happy with these images would be an understatement. I have long struggled to get quality images of a male Northern Harrier, aka the Gray Ghost, but I finally had success recently.

I thought my day of picture taking was done and was heading for home. A fellow shutterbug was driving in front of me and suddenly came to a stop. I could see what for but as I stepped out of my vehicle I saw what got his attention. A Northern Harrier was feeding on a road kill rabbit right in the middle of the road.

The hawk did not particularly appreciate us being there but also did not want to leave its easy meal. It circled multiple times, landing once or twice to have a nibble.

These two images were taken as it approached head on during one of its passes. The gray plumage and brilliant yellow eyes are striking and the intense stare of the raptor is awesome. I have some more of this encounter to share in the future but these two are my favorites of the bunch.

Taken in Adams County, Colorado.

A male Northern Harrier - the Gray Ghost - flies head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier – the Gray Ghost – flies head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier - the Gray Ghost - flies head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

A male Northern Harrier – the Gray Ghost – flies head on. (© Tony’s Takes)

The Gray Ghost on patrol

To say these hawks are elusive would be an extreme understatement. Whether male or female, Northern #Harriers rarely allow you to get close and their erratic, low flight patterns make getting a decent picture difficult.

The males, seen here, are probably the hardest of the two and are quick to avoid people and pictures – hence its nickname, the Gray Ghost. Yesterday I was lucky enough to come across one north of Denver International Airport that gave me a few nice captures as it flew by.

A Male Northern Harrier patrols a field in northeastern Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Male Northern Harrier patrols a field in northeastern Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Male Northern Harrier patrols a field in northeastern Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Male Northern Harrier patrols a field in northeastern Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Female Northern Harrier struts her stuff

It isn’t too often these raptors come close but yesterday I really lucked out. This Harrier was hunting a field in Adams County, Colorado. I sat and watched, hoping it might come close. Not only did it come close, it flew within about 20 feet of me. The lighting was tough due to clouds but the pics didn’t come out too bad.

You’ll find these hawks across much of North America, Europe and Asia depending on the season. Typically they fly very fast and low to the ground using their keen eyesight and hearing to spot and listen for their prey.

A female Northern Harrier patrols a field in Adams County, Colorado looking for a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)

A female Northern Harrier patrols a field in Adams County, Colorado looking for a meal. (© Tony’s Takes)