Hawks Aloft Photo Shoot

This past weekend I attended an annual photo shoot presented by Hawks Aloft – a local bird of prey rescue group.  I was excited to attend and see these beautiful birds up close and personal.  They had brought 11 birds for us to photograph – several of which I had never seen before except in books.  So I was thrilled I was able to get a nice view of these magnificent birds.

They did a wonderful job setting up natural perches for the birds.  We met up in an open area at Academy School.  This gave us a nice background for our photos.  I took a lot of pics and had a great time.  Here are some of my favorites of each bird.

The first bird I photographed was a Flammulated Owl.  To be honest I’ve never heard of this owl before even though they spend their summers right here in New Mexico.  This owl is very tiny (6-7 inches in length) and was so adorable.

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Flammulated Owl – Red Phase

 

Then I got to see a Mexican Spotted Owl.  There have been visitors in New Mexico from time to time – though I’ve missed seeing them every time.  Beautiful bird! Sadly this bird is in the “near threatened” category due to loss of habitat.

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Mexican Spotted Owl

Then I got to see a Prairie Falcon close up.  Lovely markings on this bird.  I’ve seen them a few times in the wild but was never able to get a very good photo. Not so this day!

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Prairie Falcon

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Prairie Falcon

Another owl was brought out – a Barn Owl.  I have seen this bird many times in the wild and have always admired its beautiful plumage.

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Barn Owl

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Barn Owl – I love the coloration of the feathers on their wings

Next came the Merlins.  They had one in the Prairie coloration and another in the Black.  Both beautiful but that black morph was just stunning!

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Merlin – Prairie Morph

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Merlin – Black Morph

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Merlin – black morph

A gorgeous rufous morph of a Red-Tailed Hawk was presented.  Beautiful!  This bird has been a rescue for a long time.  He was very relaxed during the entire event and stayed out the longest of all the birds.  He seemed to enjoy the attention.  He even spread out his wings several times after getting a long mist bath.

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Red-Tailed Hawk – rufous morph

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So majestic!

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My most favorite photo of the day

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Here you can see that gorgeous red tail

A dark morph Swainson’s Hawk was next.  I see these birds in great numbers not far from my house.  Even so, seeing one up close was wonderful.

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Swainson’s Hawk – dark morph

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Swainson’s Hawk

A Long-Eared Owl was brought out.  I’ve only seen this bird once in the wild.  It was sitting on a nest deep in the shade of a large tree.  So needless to say, I didn’t get a great look at it.  Such a beautiful owl to see in the sunlight.  Gorgeous coloring.  It’s very similar to a Great Horned Owl.

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Long-Eared Owl

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Long-Eared Owl

Then to my surprise and delight, they brought out a Harlan’s Hawk.  I have heard of this hawk but have never seen one in person.  They are a much more rare sub-species of the Red-Tailed Hawk.

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Harlan’s Hawk – you can see some red in the tail

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Harlan’s Hawk – such a beautiful coloration

A Great Horned Owl was next, but he was a newer rescue and wasn’t very comfortable in front of us.  He didn’t stay out long, but I managed to get a nice photo before he was taken back to his crate to relax.

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Great Horned Owl

Lastly was a Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  I was so excited to hear they had one for us to see.  This year was the first time I’d ever seen one ever and it was visiting my chicken coop for the mice.  I tried in vain several times to get a photo, but that owl was too clever and always knew when I was coming.  So to finally get a picture of one was so wonderful.  I love how it has a giant head with big yellow eyes and a little body.  This is another tiny owl (7-8.5 inches in length).

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Northern Saw-Whet Owl – another favorite photo of the day

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I love the big yellow eyes

I took a few shots of the staff working with the birds.  Everyone was so nice and did a wonderful job handling these birds.  They were very attentive and made sure the birds were never stressed.  Several of the birds, like the Red-Tailed Hawk, were used to people admiring them.  But a few were very new to the experience.  But all the birds did great and the utmost care was taken to keep them comfortable.  It was a very hot afternoon and the birds were heating up.  So the staff misted them often to cool them down.  You could tell by their behavior they enjoyed it a lot!

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So adorable – you can really see how little this guy is with the handler’s hand in the photo.  She was trying to get him to look toward us but he was very concerned about the other large birds nearby.

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Letting the Red-Tailed Hawk spread his wings

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Enjoying a cooling mist bath given by “Uncle Larry”

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You can see the care love she has for this Merlin.  How wonderful for her that she gets to spend time with these amazing animals.

What a wonderful afternoon photographing beautiful birds of prey!  It doesn’t get much better than that for weekend fun!