|Juvenile Prairie Falcon with a Ruddy Duck|
Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/200, ISO 1000, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
On November 11th I was fortunate to see a Peregrine falcon on the shoulder of a road with prey, the light was horrible but I hoped to get a photo or two of the Peregrine with its prey and I was getting ready to start clicking the shutter button when movement from just north of the Peregrine caught my eye. During a very brief skirmish I could see that the other bird that had flown in was a Prairie Falcon, the entire conflict lasted perhaps less than 2 seconds and, to my surprise it was the Peregrine that flew away abandoning its it prey to the Prairie Falcon.
The Prairie Falcon hopped and dragged the prey just off the shoulder of the road into dried vegetation so that the bird and the prey were slightly hidden. The prey turned out to be a Ruddy Duck and the falcon tore right into it. Low light and vegetation can be the bane of a photographer's endeavors but I continued to photograph the bird. I was excited to have captured images of what had been a nemesis bird until that day.
After going home and uploading my images to view on my screen I realized that I had photographed a first year Prairie Falcon and wondered if that was why it allowed a closer (and longer) approach than I've ever been able to achieve with one of the larger falcons before. I'm not one who believes bird photography is all about skills and that often some luck is involved so I just hoped I'd get more chances with the Prairie Falcon in better light and more out in the open.
|Perched Prairie Falcon|
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Prairie Falcons are year round residents of Utah, ground squirrels are their key prey but during the winter when the squirrels are underground they will take small birds such as Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks which Utah has in abundance throughout the year.
On November 17th I was able to photograph another (or perhaps the same bird) Prairie Falcon as it hunted and rested along the same road and in the last location I was close enough to the bird to be able to photograph the bird as it perched on a rock with the Great Salt Lake in the background, in decent light as it scanned the area fin search of prey. I couldn't jump up and down for joy then out of fear of scaring the falcon away but I can tell you that I was doing just that inside myself.
|Young Prairie Falcon getting ready for lift off|
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 800, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
|Juvenile Prairie Falcon on the shoreline of the Great Salt Lake|
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
On December 6th I spotted a Prairie Falcon again on the same road, I wasn't able to get as close as the previous session but managed to obtain some nice photos of the falcon perched on a rock and as I looked at it through my view finder I could see that it was also a young bird.
|Juvenile Prairie Falcon in golden morning light|
Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited
Peregrine Falcons may get more press but I'll never turn down a single opportunity to see, observe and photograph the Prairie Falcons of Utah. I also know I'll be back out on that road again looking for them soon.