Hawk Ridge Fun and Excitement

Can you spot the three nature photographers hidden in this photo?

So, what do you do when it's a warm 70 degree gorgeous fall day? Sit under camo hoping sweating like crazy hoping for hawks to come by of course. I spent the last few days with Stan Tekiela and Brian Wheeler who were helping train a new guy named Wayne in the delicate art of raptor flight photography. It's not an easy business, at one point a first year goshawk flew in and landed just above Wheeler. We couldn't hear his camera clicking so Tekiela tried grunting out "Brian...goshawk...above your head..." Still no sound, and then the young gos took off, made a few more passes over our group and was gone...suddenly Wheeler came to life spouting a mightly long string of profanity. He uses film instead of digital and not only was he at the end of his roll, he couldn't get the camera to open to change it.

It was interesting to listen to the boys compare their cameras and why one uses film over digital. Wheeler is very old school and dedicated to film so I doubt he will ever convert to digital. When you look at his books and realize every photo he has taken was with film and absolutely no enhancement, it makes your head spin. One of the big advantages of digital though is that we got so see some of Tekiela's images right away and of course he has some gorgeous shots of the gos as well as one of a sharp-shinned hawk. Periodically, I would break out my little digital Kodak digital camera and the boys would laugh at me. Nice to know I was at least keeping them entertained.

Broad-winged hawks put on quite a show this moring (photo above). One of the highlights of a hawk watching season is watching a morning lift off. Late in the day all those kettles of broad-wings have to get out of their thermals and find a place to roost for the night. The next morning all those kettles come up from the trees and reform. It's the coolest thing to watch all those hawks lift off as if from nowhere. Everywhere you turn hawks are popping up around you and then they form these flocks and spin around in thermals. It's also kind of eerie because you see all these birds and you don't hear them making any noise. Sends chills down my spine. When the birds do that it always reminds me of my first tattoo.

Well, that's my first trip up to the Ridge. I'll be back in about a week and a half to watch more, I can never get enough hawk watching. Boy, Hawk Ridge is really coming together. Dave Carman was showing me a new program area with some nice benches where the naturalists can give programs and yet the audience can still see the raptors flying by. There's still plenty of time to catch the broad-wing push and you can still sign up for the big Hawk Weekend. If you can't do that, October is loads of fun, you tend to see more goshawks and red-tails.