Swainson’s Hawks in Montana – And the chase is on

Swainson's Hawk in its first springSwainson’s Hawk sub-adult – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I’ve just returned from spending six wonderful days photographing in western Montana, the weather was lovely, the scenery spectacular and the birds; as usual, were awesome including these two Swainson’s Hawks. On the last evening we came across two Swainson’s Hawks on the way back to the campsite, the sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk was chasing the adult while at the same time some people in a small pick up seemed to be chasing us to see what we were looking at. Using a vehicle as a mobile blind works great but having two vehicles in close proximity did make the hawks more skittish.

This sub-adult Swainson’s is on its way to getting its adult plumage but it isn’t quite there yet. Who knows, I may have photographed this bird on another trip to Montana after it fledged.

First spring Swainson's Hawk lifting offSub-adult Swainson’s Hawk lifting off – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The people in the small pickup were making it difficult to photograph the Swainson’s Hawks and they were making both of the hawks a bit nervous, the sub-adult bird had enough of it and took off flying to the south. I wish I would have had a bit more of a head turn towards me as the young hawk lifted off.

Perched adult Swainson's HawkPerched adult Swainson’s Hawk – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The adult Swainson’s perched on a post after the people in the pickup left and relaxed, it lifted one foot and may have spent the night perched there but in the distance I could see a huge truck rumbling towards us and I knew that the hawk would take off when it got closer so I took as many close up portraits of the bird before the approached.

Swainson's Hawk with blood from its meal on its bellySwainson’s Hawk with blood from its meal on its belly – Nikon D300, f8, 1/500, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This adult Swainson’s Hawk still has some blood on its belly from its last meal. Unfortunately when the hawk lifted off from its perch I wasn’t able to maintain focus but I am still very pleased with the portrait images I was able to create.

In the days or weeks to come I will be posting more images from my six day journey in Montana. As usual I was exhausted but elated after spending time in the wilds of Montana!

Mia

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