11.20.16: Hawk calling

A Red-tailed Hawk calls while flying over Prairie Oaks Metro Park, West Jefferson, Ohio. 


Technical information

May 30, 2010,
9:32 a.m.

39°59’48” N,
83°15'2" W
(Show in Google Maps)

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 


1/3200th second


It’s not unusual for me to see hawks flying over fields and forests when I’m on one of my photo hikes. The birds can cover a large area very quickly, flying large, sweeping, circular routes as they search for food.

I’ve captured quite a few photos of hawks in flight through the years, but only a handful of the shots are worthy of display. Many of the others have the bird in an uninteresting position or facing away from the camera, or distracting items (trees, power lines) in the background, or a boring white sky or the bird too far away. To be honest, shooting a hawk in flight isn’t easy. Once I see the bird I have get the camera and very heavy lens pointed up, frame the bird in the viewfinder, focus and hope that it hasn’t flown too far away during those few seconds of prep work.

Everything worked out for this photo.

I was hiking through Prairie Oaks Metro Park west of Columbus, Ohio, on a late-spring morning, hoping to find some warblers or other birds near the end of the spring migration south, when I saw this Red-tailed Hawk soaring in the distance. Its flight path seemed to be carrying the hawk closer to where I was standing, something that doesn’t happen all that often.

I tilted the camera up, framed the bird in the viewfinder and began tracking it as it approached, grabbing a few shots while it was still a bit far away just to have some “safety” shots for potential use in case the bird changed direction and flew away.

But it kept approaching, coming off a turn almost directly over my head. The positioning was perfect as the turn tilted the wings into the sunlight that was streaming from my back left, illuminating feather detail against a bright blue sky.

As I fired off a series of shots, the bird began calling. Perfect!

I ended up with six photos of the hawk flying with an open beak against a blue sky. I selected this one because the tilt of the wings was the most flowing and the separation of the feathers on the wing tips was more distinct.

I didn’t find any migrating warblers that morning (although I did find a male Baltimore Oriole). But the photo of the hawk in flight made my day.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.