Readers’ wildlife photos

Stephen Barnard is back with some great bird shots from Idaho. His IDs and captions are indented:

Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus) like to hunt in the wind, and yesterday was very windy, with gusts up to 45 mph. This female was using the wind to hover over one spot, but she was buffeted erratically by turbulence. I was buffeted, too, with my long hand-held lens. Getting focus was difficult, especially with the willows in the background confusing the autofocus. I took over 20 shots in bursts and only one was sharp.

Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens):

A pair of American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) is hanging around a nest box I built to their specifications.

I believe this is the male. I saw the pair close together this morning but failed to get a photo when my dogs spooked them. Thanks a lot, Deets and Hitch.

And one shot of a snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) from reader Christopher Moss (see his earlier photos here):

It’s quite amazing how quickly these hares are changing colour – it must mean a lot of rapid growth of new hair, as hair colour can’t be changed (save for dye) once grown. This guy was white when I sent you his photo about a week ago. Fortunately for me he is sticking to his usual plan of sitting perfectly still when faced with a possible threat, so he just sits there when I point a camera at him.

I asked him if it was the same hare that I put up recently, and he replied:

Given that I’ve never seen a hare (technically, not a rabbit) in the garden until last week, it’s probably the same one. I hear there have been reports of hares failing to change colour completely as a result of global warming, but I’ve also read that the change occurs in response to the changing light/dark periods of each day through the seasons and can be induced deliberately by changing the light exposure of captive animals, so I doubt warmer temperatures have anything to do with it! I must confess he or she fills me with a strong desire to scatter carrots until I get to give him, or her, a scratch on the ears!

Of course I importuned Christopher to start putting out the carrots immediately!


  1. ratabago
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Nice shots.

    I love the colour in those kestrels.

  2. Posted April 5, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Incredible images…

    The first one is such a beauty !!! timed to perfection 🙂

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Yes, there is “something” in the first photo that makes it great!

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted April 5, 2018 at 11:01 am | Permalink

        I won’t take credit for “great”, but I’ll explain why I chose that photo. It’s the background, not the bird. Imagine the photo of the bird against a clear blue sky — just an ordinary harrier photo like many I’ve deleted. The bird is the only thing in focus, while the willow branches are an unusual, mildly out-of-focus bokeh filling the whole frame. My great regret is that she wasn’t a male. They’re spectacular in breeding season.

        • rickflick
          Posted April 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

          The tree bokeh provides a sense of depth that a sky wouldn’t have. Excellent choice.
          I’ve been watching the harriers along the banks of he Snake River as they dip over the bushes looking for pray. It would be great to get some pics of my own. Maybe on the next windy day.

      • Posted April 7, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        Absolutely …

        Have a beautiful day 🙂

  3. notsecurelyanchored
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    How do you build a nestbox to a kestrel’s specifications?

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted April 5, 2018 at 8:45 am | Permalink


  4. Colleen Milloy
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Again, what a joy to start my day with beautiful wildlife photos! Thank You for sharing!

  5. Michael Fisher
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Great bird pics – what sort of range do you photograph from & hand held camera is it? [naughty dogs!]

    Looking forward to more hare diaries soon

    • Posted April 5, 2018 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      The harrier was about 30 meters, the kestrel closeups were about 15 meters, and the woodpecker was almost as I could focus, about four meters. Those are crude estimates.

      All hand-held with a Canon 5D4 full-frME DSLR and a Canon 500mm * 1.4 extender for 700mm.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted April 5, 2018 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        Thanks – closer than I imagined. I suppose the secret is to keep still.

        • Posted April 5, 2018 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          The lens has effective image stabilization. Even so, many hand-held shots with a 700mm lens won’t be sharp except in ideal conditions with good light. In-flight shots are especially challenging. The trick is to take LOTS of shots. Photographers call it “spray and pray”. Some will probably be sharp, if you’re lucky. It makes sense because the incremental cost of a digital exposure is close to zero and a camera can shoot many frames a second. At the extreme end of this approach, you can record 4K video and use single frames as credible high resolution stills.

          And then there’s the BBC and David Attenborough. 🙂

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    First rate pictures! Sometimes I get to these for breakfast, but today it gives me something to do over lunch.

  7. Paul Doerder
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Superlatives all around! Kestrels are great fun to watch as they hover over prey, but also great to see when perched. Harriers tend to fly lower than most hawks, and their white rump patch is a good field mark.

  8. rickflick
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Here’s a video of Kestrel research. It shows how the birds are monitored and tracked in migration:

  9. Karen Bartelt
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Lovely kestrel & harrier, esp.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I can see why they call the Downy Woodpecker, downy. Great photos, thanks. Keep the carrots coming. 🙂

  11. SusanD
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous photos. Love the woodpecker! But don’t feed carrots to the hare (or rabbits). It is not their natural food and contains too much sugar. Unfortunately this mistaken idea is a result of brain-washing by Bugs Bunny.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 5, 2018 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Good point. Which of these would a hare particularly enjoy?:- clover, dandelion, coltsfoot, carrot tops, turnip tops & apple

      I got the list from a harecare products site 🙂
      I noticed rabbit diet is different which I didn’t realise was a consideration

      • SusanD
        Posted April 5, 2018 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

        I should have thought all of those would be ok. They are grass and herb eaters. Not sure about the apple, lots of sugar in those. But if they eat apples in the wild it should be ok. Basically just think about what they EVOLVED eating. I don’t believe hares and rabbits would dig up a carrot but would definitely eat the carrot top.

  12. Posted April 6, 2018 at 4:49 am | Permalink

    Always enjoy the photos of birds of prey.

  13. chris moffatt
    Posted April 6, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    I doubt that carrots are food as far as a varying hare is concerned. They are the guys that eat shoots and leave…. When I had pet rabbits long ago they had no interest in carrots but loved the green carrot tops. A vet once told me carrots are bad for rabbits.

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