A Northern Harrier along the shore of the Great Salt Lake

Northern Harrier female flying along Antelope Island CausewayNorthern Harrier female flying along Antelope Island Causeway – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor  200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 235mm, natural light, not baited

Two years ago I could often find Northern Harriers hunting along the causeway to Antelope Island State Park and I photographed a series of images of this female Northern Harrier on February 16th of that year. She was hunting for prey in the vegetation that grows along the causeway which is mostly Pigweed and Rabbitbrush.

Northern Harrier with the Great Salt Lake in the backgroundNorthern Harrier with the Great Salt Lake in the background – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 640,  Nikkor  200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The water level of the Great Salt Lake was higher in 2012 than it is now but hopefully when spring run off occurs the lake level will rise again. It has been so low this winter that feral pigs were able to escape one of the other islands in the lake and walk to Antelope Island. Those feral pigs were killed before they could introduce diseases to the animals on the island. There is an article about that here. Basically Fremont Island was used as a game farm by Barrow Land and Livestock and when they defaulted on the lease they left the pigs, sheep and one cow there. I detest game farms.

Female Northern Harrier displaying her nictitating membraneFemale Northern Harrier displaying her nictitating membrane – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/4000, ISO 640,  +0.7 EV, Nikkor  200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Okay, back to this Northern Harrier. The Harrier flew next to the causeway and at times she would fly in close which made for some rather nicely detailed images. In this frame the third eyelid or nictitating membrane is visible just in front of her pupil. The nictitating membrane helps to keep their eyes moistened and also helps to protect their eyes.

Northern Harrier female in flightNorthern Harrier female in flight – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640,  +0.7 EV, Nikkor  200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 328mm, natural light, not baited

Northern Harriers are a delight to see in flight and when they are hunting the action can be quite dramatic. This female didn’t catch any prey while I photographed her but she did give me plenty of opportunities for images of her in flight from the causeway to one of my favorite locations, Antelope Island State Park.

Mia

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