Oh how I love these types of birds. I previously shared my top shots of bald eagles and owls, now we look at some images of other types of eagles, hawks and falcons. Raptors are extraordinary creatures, ferocious predators but also quite beautiful and widely varied. From the tiny American kestrel to the monstrous golden eagle, all hold a special fascination for me and are quite often the focus of my images. Here’s a look back at my favorite captures of these creatures of the sky from my 2020 photo year.
A common but very cool raptor. I see these guys all over the place and oftentimes am a bit dismissive of them, never lifting my camera to take a picture. On this morning though, this particular one was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
It was perched at the top of a relatively short tree, quite in the open, allowing for a chance to get some nice shots. After giving me a number of poses, it decided the photo session was done and took flight – this image showing one of an entire sequence I captured. Taken at Barr Lake State Park, Colorado.
As I returned to suburbia yesterday after my morning photo drive, I thought my photo day was done. However, I happened across this cool raptor hanging out on the remnants of a dead tree.
I quickly flipped a u-turn and pulled out my camera to grab a few shots. Red-tails are notoriously skittish and this one was no exception. I did manage a few quick shots of it posing and then this one as it launched into the air.
Taken in Thornton, Colorado.
A different look at a very common raptor. Oftentimes I just drive right by red tails as they are prevalent but not often willing to sit for pictures.
On my way home the other day I happened across this one that sat nicely as I drove by. I decided to give it a shot and after giving me some nice poses, it launched into the sky.
Taken in Weld County, Colorado.
It is hard to get moving in the morning sometimes and this cool raptor sure was struggling on this morning last weekend. With its eyes half-closed, it clearly was in no rush to go anywhere and seemed to have the right idea for a nice, relaxing weekend.
Not a particular great image in terms of composition or quality but one that I think is kind of fun – and educational.
It isn’t often you will see these two types of raptors hanging out together but I was lucky enough to see them on the way home from work one day last week. While the hawk gave a few dirty looks at the eagle, they were tolerant of each other.
This image is also does a nice job of showing the size difference between a red tailed hawk and a bald eagle. Bald eagles can be up to about 3 feet long and have a wingspan in excess of 6 feet. The smaller red tails top out at about 2 feet in length with a wingspan of 4 1/2 feet. Quite a difference!
Red-tailed Hawk gives a menacing look. This guy (or gal) looks a bit mean, eh? It was staking out Union Reservoir in Longmont this past weekend. This capture gives a nice look at its closed, inner eyelid. Many birds have what is called a nictitating membrane. This membrane wipes front to back every few seconds, cleaning the cornea. It is translucent and the hawk can actually see through it.
Well this was kind of a neat one. I went for a photo walk after work yesterday and as I was returning to my truck, I see the silhouette of a hawk in a tree. Assuming it was a run-of-the-mill red tail, I wasn’t particularly careful with my approach.
I wish I had been as when I got close, I realized it was a Harlan’s, a somewhat rare sub-species of the red tail. These raptors are notable for their dark plumage, far different from the more common red tail.
I managed a few shots of it as it took off, not particularly good ones though. As it moved off, much to my surprise, it went and joined a second one in circling the area. I’ll definitely be checking back to see if I can see this pair again and get better images.
Taken in Adams County, Colorado.
It isn’t very often these raptors let you get close. However, when there is food involved, they are far more likely to tolerate a human. Such was the case with this beautiful specimen. It had caught some sort of small mammal, likely a rabbit or prairie dog, and was slowly enjoying the meal. With vultures and magpies just a few feet away, it knew if it left, its meal would be gone so it opted to hang around and continue to eat while keeping watch on the interlopers.
Red-tails are about the most common hawks on the plains but they also aren’t usually prone to hang around for pictures. Every now and then I come across one that is willing to pose and such was the case with this juvenile. It had staked out a nice tree to keep watch on a field, undoubtedly waiting for some poor rodent or snake to appear and become breakfast.