A Day With the Raptors

This gallery contains 6 photos. Sunday, August 16 was a good day at the 8th Richmond Raptor Festival, held once again at Terra Nova Rural Park. This educational and entertaining annual event showcased a variety of birds of prey and flight demonstrations from the Duncan, Vancouver Island-based wildlife rehabilitation organization, Pacific Northwest Raptors. First up: this large owl. I had never seen one in the feathers before, but I guessed correctly that it was a Spectacled Owl. Here he is getting some shade under the tent during the intermissions. He was remarkably calm and composed, and not in the least rattled to have so many lenses thrust in his direction.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayThe Spectacled Owl is a beautiful large owl of Central and South America.
f/8, 1/250, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 229 mm, ISO 400

This young lady is a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, perhaps the most common hawk in North America. Not exhibited during the flight demonstration, she was probably an “understudy” or fallback, in case one of the other birds of prey got sick or was otherwise unable to participate in the flight demonstrations. It was a pleasure to meet her during the intermissions between the shows.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayA profile shot of a female juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk.
f/5.6, 1/800, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 267 mm, ISO 100

This young male Harris’s Hawk had a bit of “stage fright” (or nerves) during the first show with the large audience, but handled things much better after meeting fans backstage afterwards. By the second flight demonstration, he was paying more attention to his handlers’ commands and cues. Harris’s Hawks are natives of the southwestern U.S., and Central and South America. They are quite trainable and make great falconry birds, and live to about 20 years in captivity. They are also special in that, unlike other raptors, they hunt in packs.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayThis young male Harris’s Hawk catches a piece of meat tossed up by one of his handlers.
f/8, 1/2000, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 267 mm, ISO 500

Having sighted my first Turkey Vulture in 2009, and more recently on Galiano Island over the 2015 BC Day long weekend, I finally had the opportunity to meet one up close for the first time (discounting its sub 6-foot wingspan, it is only a little bit larger than the Spectacled Owl). It was interesting to learn about this carrion eater, including the fact that it does a “Number 1 and Number 2” down its legs to keep them clean!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayTurkey Vultures have only been spotted in Metro Vancouver within the last 15 years.
f/8, 1/1000, 100 mm macro lens, 100 mm, ISO 400

Peregrine falcons are my favourite bird of prey for their dazzling beauty and amazing speed. When they execute their stoop dives, they can achieve speeds of over 320 km/h (figures from the Peregrine Falcon Wikipedia profile). This young lady amazed us with the way she caught the food tossed up by her handler — she would “punch” it like she would with live prey.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayThis young female Peregrine eagerly took to the skies during the flight demonstrations.
f/8, 1/2000, 150-500 mm telephoto lens, 439 mm, ISO 640

This male juvenile Bald Eagle (note the black on his bill is fading to yellow, and the brown head feathers are giving way to white ones) was a handful, and even gave his handler a bite on the cheek (and a dime-sized scar) as he was being taken out at the conclusion of his part of the second flight demonstration. Bald Eagles are an example of a raptor species that has been successfully brought back from the edge of extinction. These are the raptors I have seen most often in Metro Vancouver.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Good DayThis rambunctious juvenile male Bald Eagle gave us some spectacular flight shots.
f/8, 1/2000, 150-500 mm, 370 mm, ISO 500

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56 thoughts on “A Day With the Raptors

  1. Great shots and interesting info. I’m glad we don’t have the Harris’ here, I can’t imagine a pack of them looking for food. I didn’t know the Turkey Vulture cleaned its legs that way. They are impressive in many ways, but not to my liking!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful photos! Our family had a great visit some years ago to the Cotswolds Falconry Centre in the UK. Just a few weeks ago, we were in New Hampshire and saw a juvenile bald eagle circling above the lake where we were staying. Gorgeous bird. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Spectacular birds made even more beautiful with your photography!

    We have turkey vultures here all the time, but have recently started getting black vultures (they’re moving north). It’s fun to see them, but people have to watch out for their windshield wipers. :}

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you, Chris! it was my pleasure to photograph them! glad to see a different set of raptors being exhibited this year, and a higher level of engagement between the flight demonstration shows (there was no “backstage experience” last year!) 🙂


  4. Pingback: Perfect Day on the Fringe | litadoolan

  5. Beautiful photos of amazing birds. I especially love the Turkey Vulture photo. A lot of people thumb their nose at vultures and consider them a lesser creature because they feed on death (as do eagles, but it’s not held against them for some reason). But turkey vultures are unique and beautiful in their own right, and serve an important function in nature. We had a venue of vultures that periodically took up residence in a stand of trees down the road from us. I enjoyed just taking a few minutes on my way home to stop and watch them ride the thermals or cool themselves by spreading their wings. I could write more about this weirdly fascinating birds, but I don’t want to carrion…

    Thanks for stopping by my blog so that I could find yours! As an amateur photographer, I always enjoy seeing the work of others more skilled in the craft so that I can learn from them. And especially one that enjoys wildlife as much as I do! I look forward to seeing more of your work!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you, Teresa! I have only been acquainted with DSLR photography for the past year and a half, and still have much to learn myself.

      love that pun! I share your sentiments about the Turkey Vultures. compared to other birds of prey, the ‘bald’ Turkey Vultures seem homely by contrast and appear to be harbingers of death … but by their consumption of carrion, they eliminate the potential spread of disease. they can even eat carrion that has succumbed to anthrax and botulism!


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