Monday, April 21, 2014



I remain soundly fascinated by flight. Photographing birds in flight gives me a deeper appreciation of this natural process so long desired but so long denied to humans.

“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who... looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space... on the infinite highway of the air.”
Wilbur Wright
Part of my photography focus has been learning the techniques of capturing birds in flight. The results of this image are enjoyable in that the focal range, details, use of light and composition work. In other words, I lucked out…

This redtail hawk (below) is defending it's nesting territory, on this day from a pair of crows that may enjoy a feast on hawk eggs.
Redtail Hawk in full, gliding wing spread.
 This is the same redtail hawk, in this case coming out of a glide and back-flapping it's wings to slow and land on a perch. Note the talons beginning to extend as the hawk readies itself for tree-top landing.
Redtail Hawk preparing to land.
On final, this redtail hawk is using it's broad winds to near-stall while it continues to move forward, talons extended to capture the perch. It is a beautiful maneuver to observe.
Redtail Hawk landing.

Of course differing species of birds engage flight differently. For shear speed this mallard duck hen can beat the above hawk or gull wing flap for wing flap exceeding 40 mph for extended time. But it cannot soar, and glides only in a ground skimming mode as it comes in for a landing.
Mallard Duck hen in flight.
Ducks often have a distinct sound associated with their flight. It is the sound of their wings working through and displacing the air, which often causes a 'whistling' like sound during their passage. This sound also lets other ducks know of new arrivals in a given area. Here is another image (below) of the same mallard duck hen during the same flight.

Returning to gulls for just a moment - while it may not be common knowledge to the casual bird-watcher, gulls occasionally fly in formation.
Two gulls flying in formation backlit by late afternoon sun.
Although more often, as in the image below, a clutch of gulls fly together in search of or competing for food. Watch closely and even at times like this a pair or more of the birds may break off and fly in formation to a different location.
A clutch of gulls competing for food.
Try as I might, some of the most difficult birds to capture images in flight prove to be the minor species like this mountain chickadee. This image is as close as I've come but fortunately there are much more qualified photographers in the field that are able to get great images of these small birds in flight.
Mountain Chickadee about to launch from this Ponderosa pine branch.