In my last post, I preached the wonders of the Sapsucker Woods Preserve.  If a view of nesting Herons didn’t impress you, perhaps this will:

That’s a Common Grackle harassing a Red-tailed Hawk, shot at 400mm with only moderate cropping.  This is why the Preserve is such a cool place to visit!  You can wander around in the woods hoping to find the critters, or you can go someplace where you know the critters will be congregating.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

These were shot directly in front of the Lab building; I was standing on the sidewalk, shooting through the fence into the songbird garden when the hawk appeared overhead, with a seriously pissed-off Grackle in pursuit.  I thank my lucky stars that I had the camera settings tuned in correctly (Av mode, f/6.3, ISO 400, high-speed continuous and AF-Servo).  I swung the lens up, let ‘er rip, and made as many frames as I could while the hawk was in sight.

I figure that chances like that don’t come around too often, so when they do appear, you’ve got a duty to make the most of them.  Whatever great shots I’d already gotten, photos of a Red-tail were pretty likely to top them.  After all, I can find songbirds in my backyard, but finding a hawk takes a lot more luck.

And if one pass wasn’t lucky enough, he came back:

Seeing wildlife like that, up close, makes for one hell of a day.  With summer almost here, I’ll have a lot more free time, and you can bet good money that I’ll be making the trip up to Ithaca pretty often.

Brent Pennington is a freelance photographer and the driving force behind The Roving Photographer. When he\’s not working with portraiture or promotional clients, he’s usually in the field, hiking, or kayaking in pursuit of nature and wildlife shots.

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