As I do every year, I sit down and pick my personal ‘top 25’ of each of my photo subjects from my previous photo year (Oct – Sept). For the first of these, let’s start with raptors – falcons, hawks and eagles. These impressive masters of the sky oftentimes donate my photography and it is easy to see why.
Let’s call it Merlin Monday in honor of this very cool little falcon. I usually see these guys in the winter and this past year I had some pretty good luck with them.
This particular one was hunkered down on a cold January morning, not in any big rush to go anywhere. You may notice it is standing on one talon, the second being tucked up to its belly. That is a good sign that the raptor is relaxed and comfortable with your presence, thus allowing me the nice capture.
After a noticeable dearth of seeing these cool little falcons, I have been kind of lucky recently with them.
This past weekend, this merlin was alternating between perching on a fence and hopping down to eat on some leftover roadkill. After enjoying a quick snack, it took off and much to my surprise, rather than going right back to the fence opted to take the long way around right by me!
It flew eyelevel to me and not more than a few feet away. Fun stuff! It was backlit which isn’t normally desired in photography but I think the series I captured came out pretty cool. This one is my favorite.
Some action pics of this beautiful raptor whose image I shared last week. As I mentioned then, I hadn’t had much luck with merlins in quite a while so was happy that this one put on a nice little show for me. It gave me some great looks as it perched in the lone tree in the area and then flew out to hunt a few times, returning each time. The light and skies were kind of drab but these are by far the best flight shots I have ever gotten of the little raptors.
It’s about time! These awesome little falcons have been a bit of a ‘white whale’ for me lately. Last winter I only captured pics of one and they were not that great. This year, I had yet to find one but that changed on Saturday.
I was following one of my usual raptor routes and came to a stop sign where there is a lone tree. Initially I saw nothing but as I waited to turn, I took a second glance and there it was! Finally!
Best of all, the little raptor was more than willing to not only pose, but also put on a nice little show, three times going out over a field to hunt (unsuccessfully) and returning to the same tree.
I took a ridiculous number of pictures of it but I think this one is my favorite. Merlins, to me, just crazy cute for a raptor and while small, this one gave me a bit of attitude with this look. 😉
These little falcons are among my favorite wintertime raptors here in Colorado. This year, however, I have not had much luck spotting them. In fact, just Saturday I was telling my friend that I was annoyed I had not seen one yet this season.
Well, the wildlife photography gods took mercy on me the very next day. I spotted this handsome one up high on a utility pole. While not an ideal perch by any means, I was pleased for the opportunity and it did give me the pleasure of watching it dine on some other, small bird.
Merlins are just a bit larger than their more common cousin the American kestrel. They are similarly ferocious, preferring small birds as their meal of choice and being capable of snagging their prey out of the air.
Let’s call it #MerlinMonday in honor of these little falcons.
This one was hanging out on the Colorado plains last month and gave me some nice captures, including this one. Usually these guys are pretty skittish but this one was quite tolerant and seemed more curious than anything.
You can tell it is relaxed by how it is perched on a single foot with the other one tucked up to keep it warm. That is oftentimes a good gauge as to whether or not a raptor is going to pose or flee.
Now this was a fun encounter. Driving along on my photo excursion this past Sunday morning, I spotted movement not far from the road. Slowing down and taking a closer look, I see this falcon dining on a little bird it had caught for its breakfast.
I spent a good 15 minutes watching and photographing it as it showcased just how ferocious these small raptors can be. Unfortunately, I was shooting into the sun making for difficult photo conditions but the action was too much fun not to share an image of.
Here, after eating for a while, the merlin decided to take flight and move its meal to a more private location.
One of the few, good opportunities I have had this season to photograph a merlin. Such cool little raptors and they are most common during the winter months. This one was kind enough to pose quite nicely on a fence post for me late last month.
While I got some nice closeups, I kind of like this shot with a wider field of view and a hint of the snow-covered mountains off in the distance. Taken in Adams County, Colorado.
Back-to-back #falcon photos. Yesterday I posted an image of one of this little guy’s bigger cousins. The merlin is a good bit smaller than the prairie falcon but a bit bigger than the American kestrel.
This particular one was hanging out at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado yesterday and was the first of the season I have seen. As the sun was coming over the horizon, it had staked out a spot on a sign, enjoying the warmth of the sun’s rays. It was in no rush to move and lingered just long enough to give me a couple of captures.
Winters find these birds across much of the western United States and down into Mexico. Summers are spent in Wyoming, Montana and Canada. In medieval times, they were a favorite of falconers, particularly noblewomen, that called them “lady hawks.” Catherine the Great and Mary Queen of Scots famously hunted with them.