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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Up Close and Personal

A few weekends ago I went to the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory's member picnic at Barr Lake State Park northeast of Denver. I gave a talk on digital bird photography to a small but intent group. It was good to see many friends there, tuck into some good bar-b-que, and see a few birds. RMBO lined up some exhibitors including the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, which brought along a couple of education birds. I immediately keyed in on the Northern Goshawk perching on a volunteer's arm.

Not only is this one awesome raptor, but the species is one of my top nemesis birds. You see, I've observed them, including a couple of memorable close encounters, but I still haven't photographed a wild one. In a classic D'oh! moment a few springs ago, I had spent all day counting birds on the Dinosaur Ridge Hawkwatch west of Denver with my camera at the ready. The trail is kind of steep and rocky, so I packed up my camera for the walk back down to the car at the end of the day. Sure enough, as I came to a switchback at the edge of the sharp ridge, a Gos wheeled up from the other side right in front of me, into the wind, with the afternoon light illuminating every feather. Yeah, my camera was nice and secure in my backpack... Oh, well! Since then I still haven't seen one close enough to snap away. I think one problem is that even when I have one that would be OK for at least a study shot, I'm too busy staring at it to make sure it isn't a Cooper's, and by the time I realize I should snap some frames the thing is gone- in my experience, Goshawks don't linger much. Except when I'm not there. Seems like every other birding buddy of mine has had one perching calmly within at least digiscoping range, or even in their back yards! But not me. Yet... Some October soon I've got to camp out at Duluth's Hawk Ridge 'till I get my pic. Crazy thing is that I've seen one there, too, but too far away for shutter work and it was a slow day so we didn't stick around for long. Instead, a few buddies and I chased a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Got it- cha-ching!- and for now, a fair trade for my missing wild Gos pics.

Anyway, the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program folks also brought along a very inquisitive Turkey Vulture. I had trouble getting a profile shot because it kept looking at me, or maybe its reflection in my camera lens. While not a nemesis bird in any sense for me, it was so cool to see the facial details. Kind of funny that in the second picture you can see the van that the birds came in reflected in its eye! And the mostly bare head lets you see the ear canal, obscured by auricular feathers in most birds.


Camera Trap Codger said...

Great portraits, Bill. The vulture is pretty geeky, but he has a clever look in his eye. If you could find someone studying goshawks, you'd have a good source of subjects. Good luck finding them in the future. They ARE special!

dguzman said...

WOW that's creepy. The vulture's not really a bird I ever want to be that close to... but the pics were beautiful!