Over the last couple of years, I have watched these beautiful Northern Harriers work the sageland and wetland areas of Riverview Park in Carson City. It took me a couple of attempts to identify the raptor, but I finally got a view of the bird’s head and with the aid of the Merlin application from the Cornell School of Ornithology I made the identification.
They are now easy for me to identify — that big white patch on the rump is one giveaway. The second is their mode of hunting is to soar about ten feet over the surface listening for mice.
With the acquisition of the red-badge Fujifilm 100-400mm super zoom lens, I now have the capability to capture an image of these birds. They generally do not allow me to get too close, although they will sometimes glide just overhead, teasing me.
On this particular morning, I saw the harrier glide over the field. I made a couple of attempts to capture an image but was not satisfied with my attempts.
However, the bird soon began a climb, having caught a thermal. I watch it rise up and up until it was a couple hundred feet overhead. It soared in large circles, overwatching its hunting grounds.
I stood there a few minutes, knowing that the bird was not hunting but simply flying.
Many of the animals encountered during my life have shown an intelligence that is impressive. They do not simply eat, sleep, and procreate. They interact socially among their species and sometimes others. They play. They do things that please them. Otherwise, why would they waste the energy to move from place to place?
The best teacher of all is The Girl. She showed me there is intelligence without language. She often talks to me, speaking volumes without making a sound. I get it.
As I stood there on the trail, watching the harrier soaring far above me, I got it. This was not about a hunt, or about turf protection; the soaring was simply for the joy of it.
I posted this image a few days ago on my Instagram account. I mentioned before that I am disenfranchised with IG of late because of FB’s decision to change to timeline from a chronological order to some algorithmically-driven monstrosity that does not permit me to track my follows. Urgh… OK, I need to end that rant…
The last couple of months were viciously busy with deadline-driven project work. It started before Christmas and has not let up yet. I have a couple more projects in front of me and then I may get a respite. This is not a complaint; I am deeply appreciative of the work. It is an explanation for why this part of my life is quiet — there is simply not enough energy to do the work and to keep up with my personal projects (that are important to me and that provide satisfaction). So my writing and my photography are operating at a low level for now until I finish the paying work.
That does not mean that my daily outings with the Girl stopped or that my carry of a camera has not gone on. In fact, the Girl and I walk at least once each day and on many days we take a second, shorter walk at a nearby doggie-park. I usually carry a camera along with me, either the tiny Olympus OMD E-M10 or now a Sony A7R if I am in a full-frame mood.
I remain a photographic experimentalist, preferring to use vintage or odd lenses on my cameras. I have some solid, modern glass for my Fuji and my Nikons, but those systems are generally reserved for when I need that type of image or am on some kind of project. But, I digress… it is not the equipment that I really care about. The equipment is just a set of tools I use to capture what I see.
On Friday I delayed walkies, partly because Young Son and I went to breakfast and partly because I was working on project work. But we finally drove over to Riverview Park about 1100 hours. I know I can get about a 3.5-mile walk there and it is near the Carson River. Although the river area is much prettier during the warm months, winter still offers the sound of flowing water and an opportunity to see wildlife.
It is this area where I saw my first Kestrel, my first Harrier, and my first Rough-Legged Hawk. I often see flickers, jays, and woodpeckers as well. So I love watching for birds, bunnies, and the occasionally coyote. There are reasons why I prefer walking the Carson River Corridor and not in-town.
As the Girl and I made our way along the path, we were greeted by many other walkers, both two- and four-legged. The Girl loves human interaction and tolerates most canines. She is a different dog than when she came to live with me.
We broke off from the main circuit around Riverview Park and headed north towards Empire Golf Course. As we turned the corner, I noticed a large raptor in a cottonwood tree. It was a bald eagle! Then I saw the second a few feet from the first. It was a pair!
I saw another pair in the area a year or two ago, about this time of year. They were perched in a small tree in the ephemeral wetland in Riverview Park. So I knew that bald eagles are seen in the area. But I was still surprised and delighted to find two of them on my morning walk. It made my day.
Fortunately, I had the Sony A7R with me and an old Vivitar 70-210mm manual-focus zoom lens. I spent a few minutes making captures of the eagles and talking to them while the Girl did doggie things. The eagles just watched us, more interested in the Girl than in me.
We walked on, me marveling at the encounter and the Girl continuing her doggie-things.
I expected them to be gone when we returned. But the pair was still there, still watching. So I made a few more captures, interacted with another walker (who did not see the birds), and we made our way home.
It was a good day. It was a good walk. I am blessed and the visitation of the bald eagles reinforced that for me once again.
A couple mornings ago we had a bit of sun. That made the daily walkies much more pleasant. Even if it was a little cool, the sun warmed me and made the walk very pleasant.
I often see raptors while on my daily walks. I carry a pair of binoculars with me on all walks now so I can see them (plus other birds). I would not call myself a birder, but I enjoy them and love to make photographs of them when I can.
I think this is a Coopers Hawk. They are very similar to the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and I am not yet adept at distinguishing them. In any event, with the good light I was able to get a sharp capture. I like this image quite a lot.
One of my favorite captures, either in-camera or just by observations, is a raptor. I see them often on walkies; sometimes in town but more frequently when walking near the Carson River.
One Sunday morning The Girl and I were walking over to the old state school (now a doggie park) and I noticed this hawk near the old flume. It flew up into the top of a cedar tree as we approached, then transitioned to this grove of willows near the DPS headquarters.
That gave me time to mount the 6-inch Wollensak on my Olympus. The Girl waited (mostly) patiently while I made the captures. Then snorted and danced when we moved on.