Sometimes I venture far afield looking for wildlife photo ops but this time the photo op came looking for me. While preparing lunch Sunday I noticed a female Northern Harrier hunting over the adjoining farm. I readied the camera in case she moved closer and soon was rewarded when she began hunting the meadow directly behind my home.
Northern Harriers fly slowly and close to the ground when hunting, sometimes within a foot or two of the tops of the grass. This photograph caught the hawk as she rose in the air to make a turn.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology lists my area as the southern edge of the Northern Harrier's breeding range but I cannot recall ever seeing one during the summer. During winter it is not uncommon to see these large owl-faced hawks gracefully swooping low the the ground.
Going into a short stoop she can be seen here plummeting into the meadow
And rising a moment later with a vole nest clutched in her talons. Take note of her head position; she is intently looking at the nest, not where she is going.
Apparently satisfied that the nest failed to contain her prey she is seen here dropping it as she continues her hunt.
These shots were taken hand-held at a distance of about one hundred yards and cropped heavily.