Littlest Hawk and the One That Got Away
This Winter I have been blessed with encountering two pair of American Kestrels on a trail I frequent every time I have been on it. In the past I could occasionally see one so it is not like a new experience for me but two pair is quite remarkable. They are the smallest of the hawk family in North America and also one of the most colorful with shades of orange, blue, beige, and black. where I am at they feed almost exclusively in small rodents like mice. Even with my great luck it is quite rare to get as close to a bird as I did in the photo above. Typically they will perch much higher and in general are quite skittish of humans. On this day two of the birds were in intense competition trying to steal each others food. They were so focused on watching the other that a human presence just did not seem to register with them. Even with all that I still came home with only a few good images, they are small and fast, certainly the fasted of all the raptors and hard to spot and follow. They are only about twelve inches long, have a wingspan of about two feet, and weighing at less than a quarter pound. Although the estimates vary greatly, it is generally thought there are about two million pair of the birds in North,Central, and South America with about half of them in the US and Canada.
The next picture is the one that got away. This pair carried on for quite a while but this was the only position I was able to take where the female chasing the male were not partially obstructed by branches. It was the only shot that had great promise but as you may or may not be able to see both the birds are a bit soft, just not as sharp as they could and should be. I am still trying to decide just how that happened. The camera was locked down on a tripod and focused on the tree where (at the time) the male was eating. Pictures previous to this were tack sharp. The shutter speed was 1/3,200sec so it is unlikely it was motion blur even though these guys are very fast at this point. Depth of field could be an issue, I was at f4 trying to blur out background branches (which I later Photoshoped out) but I also was a fair distance back and it looks like there was not much difference in distances. In fact, judging from the wind that day the male should be in front of the tree slightly and the female slightly behind. Then there is the human error, camera shake. I think the most likely cause of the softness is that I either got too excited and stabbed the shutter or accidentally bumped against the tripod.
The one that got away, here’s hoping none of you have any of those.
As always, thanks for stopping by and please if you have an iPad don’t forget to download my new application Wildlife HD while it is still free for a limited time.