Coopers Hawk Mating Pair

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

Knowing that I’m a bird photographer, and how much I love to photograph birds of prey, a friend called me recently to tell me a story of a close encounter with a hawk of some kind in her front yard.  She said this hawk swooped down to ground level, flew right at her, and then swooped away just before reaching her.  She sent me a photograph of said hawk via email that she took with her point and shoot camera, and it appeared to be a Coopers Hawk.  In the video below, I misidentified these birds as Sharp Shinned Hawks (Sharpies).  Thanks to Berni and Vicky for helping me to properly identify them. 

The next day I went to my friends house to photograph this hawk.  When I arrived, I learned that there are actually 2 hawks, and that they are occupying a nest in the tree across the street.  I spent about an hour photographing these hawks that are sometimes known as Coops.  Neighbors came out to talk to me when they saw my big fancy camera, and I learned that these Coops stole the nest they occupy from a couple of squirrels.  Those squirrels met an untimely end thanks to these Coops according to 2 of the neighbors.  I also photographed them the next day before work in the early morning sun (the golden hours).  I have lots of images that I hope you’ll enjoy. 

Coopers Hawk

Coopers Hawk

These birds are incredibly comfortable around people.  I’ve seen them swoop between children playing on the sidewalk, they swooped near my friend in front of her house, and they’ve flown around me as I try to track them through my viewfinder.  I’ve photographed them from as near as 8 feet above me in a tree. 

I’ve watched them eat their prey from a tree branch, gather nest material, posture themselves as a mating couple would, and call to each other with their sharp squeek of a call.  The most amazing thing I saw was when I was taking video of one of them with my own point and shoot, and the second Coop suddenly appeared in the frame, and proceeded to mate with the first Coop! 

Did you know that when a Coopers Hawk takes off to fly, it doesn’t open it’s wings?  It closes it’s wings, and dives towards the ground like a bomb, then opens it’s wings just before it reaches the ground and soars away.  That’s not something you learn in a book, and it’s been amazing to watch these birds long enough to learn that.   

Here is that video I mentioned, and the link to my gallery of images:




Earth Day Bald Eagle Report

I got up at 5AM today, Earth Day, before the sun, so I could be on the road by 6PM.  I made the 2 hour drive to the eagles nest site that I’ve been to each year for the last 3 years during nesting season.  Minutes after I arrived at about 8:30, one of the local regular eagle watchers arrived.  Ray, a guy I had met each of the last 2 years while watching eagles here.  He informed me of some sad news.  Ray said the locals believe that the baby eagles did not survive the heavy snow storm we had in the first days of April.  After that heavy storm, the parents abandoned the nest for a while.  After a little more than a week, they started hanging around the nest, and then started to add material to the nest again.  (This is referred to as “nesting”, and it’s the precursor to mating.)  He said they’ve been adding to the nest sporatically ever since, but that the eagles don’t stay at the nest for any length of time anymore.  They bring a branch, drop it off, and fly away.  Shortly after he told me this story, one of the eagles did exactly that.  I got a few photographs of his visit, but that’s all for the whole day.  The hope is that they eagles are “nesting” again, and may even mate again, producing more eggs.  Let’s hope.

Michael, Dad, and Me

Michael, Dad, and Me

Shortly after the eagles visit to the nest, my dad arrived and I helped him get his camera setup.  Then one of my customers from Calumet arrived too.  We sat around for a few hours and the eagle never came back, so my dad and I left to grab some lunch. 

On my way home, the weather was so nice that I didn’t want to go back to my apartment, so I stopped at a heron rookery in Joliet that I’ve been to before.  It’s mating season for many more species of bird including herons and egrets, which populate this rookery in the hundreds or thousands during mating season.  Well, it’s not quite at capacity I think, but there were quite a few herons, egrets, cormorants, ducks, griebs, geese, and a turtle.  I got my best photos yet of a great blue heron while I was there.  I had been sitting still on the edge of a small cliff in my camo and this great blue heron appeared from behind an island flying right towards me.  He landed on a branch not 20 feet away.  I don’t think he saw me until he heard my camera shutter, and then he flew away.  Camera manufactures need to make a SILENT SHUTTER!  🙂  There was a cute little turtle sunning himself that I got some pictures of too. 

So below is the link to todays photographs.  I hope you like them.  Now I have to prepare for tomorrows adventure.  Investigating a new coopers hawk nest in a tree across the street from my best friends house!!!  She said that today 2 coopers hawks were building a nest in this tree, and one of them did a low fly by not 10 feet from her, and at eye level.  Cool!



Eostre Sunday at Morton Arboretum

Today I was suppose to go to a family gathering.  The gathering was a 3 hour drive, and I woke up an hour late this morning.  Then my insulin pump ran out of insulin so it took me extra time to reload it, and it just took me forever to get ready to leave.  At the moment I was about to leave, I got an important phone call that took a half an hour.  So at that point I decided not to make the trip, because I would have been 1.5 hours late anyway, and still had to make the drive home the same day too. 

So I ended up going to Morton Arboretum to do some birding.  I hadn’t been birding since last summer, so it was very nice to have a beautiful day to do it.  Hearing all the bird calls, all the chirping, seeing so many different species in 1 day.  It was nice.  I listened to the wind a while, listened to the birds, went for some nice walks through the prairies, and took some photographs.  A wonderful day, even though it wasn’t with family. 

wordpress-mortonarboretum-eastersunday_04122009006I saw 3 turkey vultures soaring overhead, and got a nice clear picture of one.  I saw a red tail hawk kettle up to about 1000 feet, and then start a dive at some prey from at least a half mile away and 1000 feet up which was really cool, but my 200mm lens just wasn’t long enough to capture that.  I saw a cute little ground squirrel darting around in the dead leaves and grass of one of the prairies.  Oh! And I got a picture of a tree swallow in flight!  I don’t know if you know what a tree swallow is, but they’re these little birds that dart around in the sky as fast as lightning.  It’s hard enough just to track it with your camera, but it’s even harder to actually capture them with a camera.  I did it though!  Been trying to capture one of those birds mid flight for 4 years.  I also stopped to take some photos of the blooming daffodils. 

So anyway, another thing of note is when I saw all of the after church people going for walks at the arboretum.  A family of 4 was walking, and they had a daughter that looked about 8 years old, with a DSLR, in a cute little summer dress, taking pictures of daffodils.  She was so serious about it, I wanted to snap a few pictures but didn’t want to scare her parents.  They were yelling for her to hurry up, and I wanted to yell back at them that they can’t hurry an artist.  LOL! 

There are only a few pictures that I chose to keep from the days photos, but you can view them at the link below.  Make sure to check out the image labeled “Hidden Within”.

Bristol Renaissance Faire

I’ve been attending Bristol Renaissance Faire since it was called King Richard’s Renaissance Faire.  For a few years, I’ve submitted photographs to the marketing team at Bristol Renaissance Faire for use in their advertising.  I did so again this year, and soon you may start to see some of my photographs in their marketing material, like in todays email blast that went out to their email list from their website.  A photograph that I took last year of the joust is what they included in todays email.  The email was to advertise their Easter 2 for 1 Special, which can be found here:

If you’ve never been to Bristol Renaissance Faire, you should go!  It’s tons of fun!  Click the link above for dates.  The link below included my galleries from Bristol Renaissance Faire as well as other faires.