Falconry – Birds Of Prey

On February 2, 2011, in Story Behind Images, by kvitalij

Hello all, and welcome back

As you’ve probably noticed in my previous posts I’m a bit of bird lover and watcher. Photos of birds that I capture, is my way of expressing freedom and nature. But today I will show you some birds in a different way of freedom and in a different habitat. I’m taking you into to the world of Raptors or Birds Of Prey. Say hello to Newgrange Falconry

 

 

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One year ago I had the opportunity to visit Falconry with my wife Olga, for an entertaining, stimulating and educational experience that is presented by Brian McCann and his family.

Since I had never been on a trip like this before, I did not know what to expect but by the end of the day I was full of excitement, joy and happiness. My card was full of photographs that I captured throughout the day. It’s hard to describe all the feelings that my heart and soul were filed with after being in such close proximity to such magnificent Birds of Prey:  Eagles, Falcons, Kestrels, Buzzards, Hawks and Owls

Travelling to the Newgrange location wasn’t that difficult, it took us around an hour from Dublin. However you probably would need a car. The best thing to do is contact the great man behind the Newgrange Falconry – Brian. He and his wife Barbara will assist you in choosing the right day, how to get there and what to expect. (Please visit his site for more indepth information)

In writing this post I’m not trying to promote Newgrange Falconry, I just want to express how grateful I am for the wonderful experience on the day that was offered and the amount of time and energy they spent making us feel so welcome. I believe Brian puts a lot of effort and his committed to leave you with unforgeable memories!

Owl

European Eagle Owl And Olga

Eagle in Motion

Zeen – Harris Hawk Feeding Time

Take off

Alamo – Harris Hawk Take Off

But let’s get back to the Photos of the Predators

Harris Hawk

harris Hawk Photo

Harris Hawk formerly known as the Bay-winged Hawk or Dusky Hawk is a medium-large bird of prey. It is a popular species in falconry and these records almost certainly all refer to escapes from captivity. The Harris Hawk is famous for its remarkable behaviour of hunting cooperatively in “packs”, consisting of family groups.

Harris Hawk Zena

Harris Hawk in Motion

Peregrine Falcon

The Peregrine Falcon also known as the Peregrine,and historically as the “Duck Hawk”  The Peregrine is renowned for its speed, reaching speeds of over 320 km/h (200 mph) during its characteristic hunting stoop, making it the fastest extant member of the animal kingdom.

The Peregrine’s breeding range includes land regions from the Arctic tundra to the Tropics. It can be found nearly everywhere on Earth, except extreme Polar Regions, very high mountains, and most tropical rainforests. This fact makes it the world’s most widespread bird of prey. While its diet consists almost exclusively of medium-sized birds, the Peregrine will occasionally hunt small mammals, small reptiles or even insects. Reaching sexual maturity at one year, it mates for life and nests in a scrape, normally on cliff edges or, in recent times, on tall human-made structures. The Peregrine Falcon became an endangered species in many areas, but bird populations recovered, supported by large scale protection of nesting places and releases to the wild.

Alana – Lanner Falcon

The Lanner Falcon is a large bird of prey that breeds in Africa, southeast Europe and just into Asia. It is mainly resident, but some birds disperse more widely after the breeding season. It is a large falcon, at 43–50 cm length with a wingspan of 95–105 cm. European Lanner Falcons have slate grey or brown-grey upperparts; most African subspecies are a paler blue grey above. The breast is streaked in northern birds, resembling greyish Saker Falcons, but the Lanner has a reddish back to the head. Sexes are similar, but the browner young birds resemble Saker Falcons even more.

Harris Hawk

The Lanner Falcon is a bird of open country and savanna. It usually hunts by horizontal pursuit, rather than the Peregrine Falcon’s stoop from a height, and takes mainly bird prey in flight. It lays 3-4 eggs on a cliff ledge nest, or occasionally in an old stick nest in a tree.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk is a bird of prey, known in the USA as the “chicken hawk,” though it rarely preys on chickens. It is legally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Red-tailed hawks are also preferred by falconers because these younger birds have not yet developed adult behaviours, which can make training substantially more challenging.

The Red-tailed Hawk feathers are considered sacred by some tribes in America, and are used in religious ceremonies.

The Long Eared Owl

Owl

The Long-eared Owl is a medium sized owl. It has erect blackish ear-tufts, which are positioned in the centre of the head. The ear-tufts are used to make the owl appear larger to other owls while perched. The female is larger in size and darker in coloration than the male. The Long-eared Owl’s brownish feathers are vertically streaked. Tarsus and toes are entirely feathered. Eye disks are also characteristic in this species. However, the eye disks of A. otus are darker in color or rusty-orange. This nocturnal species is perhaps most easily seen perched in a tree in its daytime roost, sometimes in small groups during the winter months.

Owl Close up Photo

The Long-eared Owl hunts over open country by night. It is very long winged, like the similar Short-eared Owl, and glides slowly on stiff wings when hunting. Its food is mainly rodents, small mammals, and birds. In Europe it faces competition from the tawny owl and is most numerous where the tawny is absent.

European Eagle Owl

Bengal Eagle Owl - Woody

The Eagle Owl is a large and powerful bird, smaller than the Golden Eagle but larger than the Snowy Owl. It is sometimes titled the world’s largest owl, but so is the Blakiston’s Fish Owl, which is slightly bigger on average. It mainly feeds on small mammals, but can kill prey up to the size of foxes and young deer (up to 10 kg/22 lb), if taken by surprise. Larger prey (over 3 kg/7 lb) is consumed on the ground which leaves the bird vulnerable (for example to foxes). It is said to be routinely able to swallow a hedgehog whole.

The call of the Eagle Owl is a deep resonant “ooh-hu” with emphasis on the first syllable for the male, and a more high-pitched uh-Hu for the female (in German and Hungarian, the name of this bird is “Uhu” and the Dutch name is “Oehoe”). Each member of an Eagle Owl population can be identified by means of its vocalizations.

The size, ear tufts and orange eyes make this a distinctive species. It has a strong direct flight. The ear tufts of males are more upright than those of females.

Woody the Owl

Owl Hiding Image

Europe largest Owl

The Eagle Owl is largely nocturnal and is found in mountains and forests with cliffs and rocky areas, usually nesting on cliff ledges. They live for around 20 years although like many other bird species in captivity they can live much longer, perhaps up to 60 years.

Barn Owl

Snowy Owl

Barn Owl is the most widely distributed species of owl, and one of the most widespread of all birds. It is also referred to as Common Barn Owl, to distinguish it from other species in the barn-owl family. Barn Owl often becomes active shortly before dusk already and can sometimes be seen during the day, when it relocates from a sleeping place it does not like.

Snowy Owl Photo

This is a bird of open country such as farmland or grassland with some interspersed woodland. This owl prefers to hunt along the edges of woods. It has an effortless wavering flight as it quarters pastures or similar hunting grounds. Like most owls, the Barn Owl flies silently; tiny serrations on the leading edges of its flight feathers help to break up the flow of air over its wings, thereby reducing turbulence and the noise that accompanies it.

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My Photo equipment at that time was: Canon 40D, telephoto zoom lens Canon 80-200L f/2.8 (also known as Magical Drain-Pipe) & Canon 28-70L f/2.8. Most of the time the zoom lens would stay on my 40D.

Photographing birds can be pure enjoyment or pure hell! It all comes down to the equipment you use; how good you know your camera settings and how much patience you have.

Static subjects or in our case birds, are easy to capture: Set your camera to Aperture priority mode, set aperture to what is available on your lens. (The lower the f/value the more the background will be blurred or the DOF-Depth Of Field. If you want more sharpness in the background just increase the f/value and let the camera do the rest). Set your focusing points on centre weight if you can. Set ISO to auto mode and fire away.

A moving subject is a different story altogether. Some photographers tend to photograph birds with Auto-Servo mode if your camera has this feature. Some just wait for an opportunity to arise and click away hoping to get some sharp images. Usually for moving subjects I would suggest using Shutter priority mode, and set the shutter speed to 1/600 (The higher you set your shutter speed the quicker you can freeze the motion) or slightly above it, depending on how big the bird is and how quick it is flapping its wings. Leave your ISO on auto, focusing point which could be centre or multiple. It is really up to you.

Please note these are just general tips for static and moving birds, I’m not even mentioning other factors (Increased ISO makes the photos look grainier; if you set your Shutter speed to High/fast it has less time to capture all the light that goes through the lens into the sensor, which results in darker images, or if your ISO is set to auto it will increase it to the maximun optimum level to record more light, resulting in a grainy image) Weather is another major factor of course!

Please note most of  Birds description was taken from Wikipedia.

If you have question please leave a comment or write me an email.

Hope you enjoyed the photos.


 

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