Harriers, also known as marsh hawks, are a very common sight here in southwestern Oklahoma in winter. Although the Cornell Lab of Ornithology map shows they occur year-round in the northwestern parts of our state, I did not see any last summer. They were replaced by the very numerous Mississippi kites.
I’ve seen them all over the country, but rarely do I see an adult male. Mostly I see females and juveniles, which are brown. Males are a gorgeous gray, and from underneath exhibit a great deal of white, giving them the moniker “gray ghosts.”
However, all have the distinctive white rump patch, and the owl-shaped face. They tend to patrol fields, flying low to see and hear rodents.
Often they will hover over a promising spot, and if lucky, they will plunge and connect with their prey.
There are plenty of these voles out there. You can hear them scurrying in the grass. And there were dozens of harriers, all of them brown.
I use my Nikon D600 on the “continuous” focusing mode when I want to follow a flying bird. It has a better chance of giving me a fairly sharp image as long as it can stay focused on the bird and doesn’t get waylaid by a branch or tall grass.
Since I only have an 80-400mm lens, I still have to crop tight to “fill the frame.” Not ideal, but still pretty decent.
Oh, and here’s the one merlin. It was sitting on a signpost, and I was able to capture it launching.
Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
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Contact: cindy at cindymcintyre.com