Some of them do sound like that, with their “hawk, hawk, hawk!”. After nearly two years of hunting birds in Manitoba, I have come to understand that birds are plentiful. Unlike the birds I have seen in Europe, although the places I lived were not really made for birds, I admit. Getting any bird here is fairly easy, just point your camera

Bald Eagle

off the balcony or pick it up when you’re lazily sipping a beer in the back yard and you’ll get a bird. But to get some raptors is a different matter. You have to go and get them, stalk them and even wait for them to come back to a spot where they were before.

Raptors also have the habit of flying pretty high. As well as having a healthy habit of staying away from humans. If we get too close, they just move camp. We hardly see them with prey in either claws or beaks. And I’m not going to photograph them in the zoo during feeding hours. That is below my dignity as a photographer.

Burrowing OwlBurrowing Owl

So I try to get them in nature, in their habitat. It’s a whole different place from my balcony. The first idea is to go to Fort Whyte Alive, where the Burrowing Owls are kept in enclosure. FWA is not a zoo. For the Burrowing Owls it’s a question of survival; they are an endangered species. Every young that hatches is carefully examined and swapped with other, similar institutions for breeding purposes.

Great Grey OwlGreat Grey Owl

But you can only shoot them so many times. The background never changes, the surroundings are always the same… In other words, it gets boring to shoot these birds over and over again. Also they have no “funny” habits of jumping over each other or something like that. So I went on to the next fairly stationary bird. The Great Grey Owl. Once they get used to you, they ignore you completely, unless you step in their food reserve, of course.

Snowy Owl, huntingSnowy Owl, hunting

From the Great Grey Owls it is a small step to go and look for the completely white owls, the Snowy Owls. These are fairly common in Manitoba in winter, but you have to know where to find them. Luckily I overheard some birders giving each other tips on where to find them. I was all ears Smile ! A few hours later I had my first shots of Snowy Owls taken on my own.

It always looks so easy when you present the pictures, saying “here I found a …”, but there is more to it than simply “finding” the birds in question. You have to know their habitat, their habits and lifestyles.

Red-Tailed HawkRed-Tailed Hawk

So when the Raptor Festival in La Riviere was held, I was there as soon as possible to shoot those birds. However, they were too far away to get a decent picture of them. It did tell me that for sure, the raptors were on their way back to Manitoba and it was time for me to look out for them. The above Red-Tailed Hawk was nearly in the same spot where weeks earlier I shot the Great Grey Owls. The owls have moved elsewhere, though.

Red-Tailed HawkRed-Tailed Hawk

Adapting the camera settings to a more aggressive shooting style yielded way better pictures of the birds in flight than I had imagined before. That Red Tailed Hawk had no chance of getting away without having its picture taken Smile.

Enormous Turkey VultureEnormous Turkey Vulture

Then I felt a shadow over my head.  The enormous bird that shadow belonged to was a Turkey Vulture. I had never seen one of them except for on TV. And now there was one flying over my head? Shoot! Vultures are always depicted as despicable birds, waiting for their meal to die before dining. This one had nothing to eat in that case.

Grooming Cooper’s HawkGrooming Cooper’s Hawk

Then I heard about a possible nest of Cooper’s Hawks, not far away from my home. That was too good to pass up on, so on a warm Sunday afternoon I went there to have a look. The animals did not disappoint. They were there, grooming themselves with their enormous claws, scaring all the other wildlife into the bushes in the process.

Cooper’s HawkCooper’s Hawk

A few moments later the same bird seemed to pose nicely for me, showing off several angles, while the partner was busy bringing sticks to the nest. That is definitely a story to follow up on. But you will have to wait. We don’t want to rush Nature, right?

Until next time…

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Henk
8 days 3 hours

Thanks :) !

sursohog
8 days 6 hours

---Very nice Blog Henk - some nice shots there...-:)

Henk
12 days 23 hours

Presets can speed up your workflow a lot, provided you have plenty of the same type of pictures. People doing weddings will a ...

Henk
13 days

Hi, I hadn't noticed that the typing colour was that dark... changed it to pure white, that should do it ... Henk

'Dan..
13 days 1 hour

I certainly agree the use of presets will discourage people learning their own methods but they can offer a shortcut to fulfi ...

Henk
1 month 3 days

Well, I was told so by a "pro" that later recanted... :-) I removed the name, so at least it is now correct.

josie brendle
1 month 4 days

nice blog but sorry the horses are not Clydesdales. Those are a little bigger. :)

Henk
1 month 4 days

Test comment here

Henk Von Pickartz
1 month 4 days

This is a comment. I will see if this works or if this will be taken over by spammers. If so, then I will take it down again.