Northern Harrier Hunting Jackrabbits


April, 22, 2018- About a half hour after sunrise this Harrier was working the field near me.


The Petaluma River Wetlands are found along the approximately 10 mile length of the Petaluma River. The river is actually a brackish tidal slough that feeds into the San Francisco Bay via its northern section named San Pablo Bay.


She was hunting this area in their usual systematic way and stayed at about this height for most of her several passes.


Then I saw a jackrabbit bolt and the chase went into high gear. Here we see a jackrabbit’s ears to the right of the Harrier on the ground. I could not see what the Harrier had or missed, but it was kind of strange seeing the rabbit’s ears in plain sight so near the raptor.


A minute later the Harrier had departed and the jack was alone as far as I could tell.


And within seconds the jackrabbit was moving.


And the Harrier was chasing after with steady, serious deep and powerful wing pumps.


The pursuit continued with the raptor visually locked on to the rabbit.


Eventually the jackrabbit made it to the safety of the tall reeds and the Harrier peeled off to other parts of the Petaluma River Wetlands.

Low Lighting with Pie-billed Grebe

By Dave Brooks


I was out yesterday morning under low light conditions when I came upon this common Pie-billed Grebe at Ellis Creek. This grebe was in a dark alley in the reeds with subdued backlighting. I had my auto-ISO engaged with a high limit of 3200 and that is what this shot was recorded at, with shutter speed 1/500, f/7.1, at 500mm. I like the good focus and clear detail on the grebe set off by the soft and somewhat dreamlike reflections in the water. I processed this image in Lightroom with the usual minor adjustments to white and black levels and contrast. However, normally I apply light sharpening for the screen, in this case I have reduced the sharpening by a third as well as applying substantial noise reduction to clean up the high ISO.


This is the same image cropped a bit tighter. I like the brightness, the black and white contrast of the bird framed against the dark background colors and soft reflections.

Nuttall's & Downy Woodpeckers Feast After Rain

By Dave Brooks

Female Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Female Nuttall’s Woodpecker

This female Nuttall’s Woodpecker was busy working a dead tree for breakfast on March 9. These woodpeckers were very close to the creekside path I was walking on, I would never have seen them but for hearing the muted thud, thud, thudding of them hammering into the soft, wet bark and wood of this dead tree.

Male Nuttall’s Woodpecker

Male Nuttall’s Woodpecker

And her mate was right along side. Even though I was very close to them, they did not seem to be bothered by my presence at all. I had to work like crazy to try and get a sightline clear enough to them for photos and to squeeze in the focal point between all of the branches and emerging flowers. And it kept drizzling every other minute. But it was all good fun capturing these images.

Female Downy Woodpecker

Female Downy Woodpecker

They were up and down, around and round this tree, enjoying the bountiful feeding immediately following a long rainy spell here in Sonoma County.

Downy Female

Downy Female

Nuttall’s Woodpeckers are only found in California and stretching down into Baja and up into Oregon a bit. They are often mistaken for Downy Woodpeckers, Downy’s are found throughout North America.

Harrier Flying with Vole

By Dave Brooks


On October 14, 2018. At Point Reyes National Seashore. I was watching a herd of Tule Elk when this Northern Harrier came flying across a swale in my direction. I was able to get my lens focused on him quickly to catch this short series of images around 10am.


The light was reasonably favorable and and I was only about 30 yards away from this action.


He swooped in for a landing with the vole clutched tightly in talons. I really like the shape of the tail as it is here in a strong fan deployment to slow down for the landing.


He landed in this tangle of brush and made quick work of his mid-morning meal.

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm, 1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1400

Red-tailed Hawk - Close Up in the Fog - Sonoma Coast

By Dave Brooks

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-1.jpg

October 28, 2017, just before 5pm. The fog was thick and this red tail was hunting from a fencepost along this country back road near the Sonoma coast.

My shutter speed was a bit slow resulting in the softness of the in-motion images. However, given the dense fog I was happy to get this good of results.

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-2.jpg

I was only about 40 feet away from this hawk and she really did not seem to care that I was there, she seemed at ease the entire time.

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-3.jpg

Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500mm at 200mm, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 1000

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-4.jpg

I believe this was a half-hearted hunting attempt at a vole, but there was no real grab attempted so the target must have tucked below well in advance.

The hawk’s eyes see it all as this dry grass is not that dense.

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-5.jpg

About 15 seconds later she turned and began to crouch, getting ready to take off.

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-6.jpg

Fully coiled and ready for blast-off!

red-tailed hawk - in the fog-7.jpg

Despite clipping the wings out of the frame, I just love the strength, energy and posture of this beauty launching herself into the air.