Last Saturday four other photographers and I spent a few hours photographing captive raptors at the Canadian Raptor Conservancy. We worked on owls and raptors. They were captive but that doesn’t mean they were easy to photograph! They’re just as fast in captivity as they are in the wild.

We started out with a young female Barn Owl. She was easy compared to the faster ones!

There are the same things to consider with captive birds as in the wild – Direction of the light, direction of the wind, background, lens and camera body choice and habits of the bird.

This is a typically light-coloured male Red-tailed Hawk as seen in Southern Ontario.

Because the birds are fairly close using a shorter telephoto means that more of the background is in focus. Next time I might just have to get farther away and use a longer lens!

Also, of course, with these captive birds we had the opportunity for perched shots.

All the images took at the Canadian Raptor Conservancy were taken with the Canon 7D and a 70-200 IS lens at f2.8.

Two wild Bald Eagles stopped by to check out the captive birds while we were there. One carried a defunct transmitter.

Sunday I spent at my favourite photography spot for Hawk Cliff. It was a warm sunny day with little hope of much of a flight as the winds were fairly light and South to SouthWest. A stronger, nastier SW wind might have been good for the last of the Peregrine Falcons but I didn’t see a single one. A huge surprise was a juvenile Golden Eagle. It had been seen and photographed the day before and just decided it was time to head on through.

At least the high key sky shows off the bird!

Another nice surprise was a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. It is typical of a northern bird with darker markings than one from southern Ontario.

I decided to take a chance and add a 1.4 converter onto my 500 f4 IS lens. It made all the difference in the size of the bird in the frame. I must be getting better at this as I had no problem finding the birds in the viewfinder. I think the speed of the auto-focus of the 7D does help!

All the images in this and all my blogs are the property of Eleanor Kee Wellman, are copyrighted and may not be used for any purpose without the express written permission of the photographer!

Two Trips, Friends and Fun

On September 17th I drove to visit Hawk Cliff. This is one of my annual fall trips and it was good for visiting with friends and photography. On a good hawk day the counters are really busy and work is very serious! On slower days there may be time for a chat.

When I arrived at my usual photography spot I saw that Monarch butterflies were flying into some tree branches to settle for the night. I took a few pictures, a bit of video and let my friend, Su Redmond, know that there were possibilities for the next morning.

The clusters amounted to only several hundred but I’m not usually in the right place at the right time to see any at all! It was a treat to have blue sky with some clouds to set off the branches.

I spend most of my time away from the cliff as the light isn’t great until afternoon and I’m not fond of crowds. Su and Shay Redmond along with Don Taylor and a few others set up for raptor photography. I got no great images but the company was super and the wind only so-so. A few thousand broadwings kettled although the majority had gone through.

One of the early close kettles produced a Red-shouldered Hawk. A species I don’t see much of in migration as I’m not usually there at the right time.

After returning home and racing around delivering cards and prints I deserted the migrating warblers at to meet a group at a wildlife park in Quebec. The colours driving through Algonquin Park were the best I had seen. Led by Diane Skinner we photographed bears, elk, deer, otter, wild boar, wild turkeys and wolves and other exotics.

The older bull elk were in rut and, even though they are captive, exhibit the same breeding behaviour as wild elk. Bugling could be heard throughout the park from the elk and from the Red Deer. The advantage of photographing them in the park is that you are much closer than you would be in Yellowstone or western Canada.

The above image shows a pair of flaps of skin that appear to come from the lower internal lip area. They are half circles with tiny projections on them that could be part of the tasting and smelling process during Flehmen.

The bulls use their tongues to taste or smell the air to determine if a cow is ready for mating.

The bulls spray themselves with their own urine. They also rattle their antlers against trees and branches and spray them as well. Photographing the elk up close with vehicle windows open quickly lets you know, by their “fragrance” which bulls are in rut.

The bulls in rut are the ones with the wet manes!

Now that I have seen them close-up I want to get out west to see them in more wide-open habitat.

The Red-shouldered Hawk image was taken with my Canon 7D and my 500 f4 IS lens, hand-held. All the others were taken with the same camera body and the Canon 100-400 lens.