I don't bird, but if I wanted to...

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
Was sitting on the back porch today and a decent sized raptor of some sort swooped by. Brown and tan for the most part, a healthy 4'+ wingspan, relatively small head and beak. I got a few lazy gliding circles not twenty feet from me and off it went.

I checked my local source:
https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/raptors

It had the mottled breast/belly of the peregrine shown on this page in the top right, but the head looked different. It looked most like an adult Merlin of the birds I cross-referenced from above at my alma mater's ornithology website, but it was considerably bigger than the Merlin dimensions of a 2' wingspan listed there.

Any ideas of what it is?

I don't bird or plan to get into birding, but I wouldn't mind capturing this one or others that might swoop by. We're on the top of a hill and it's not uncommon to see this, so I thought I'd leave my 5D3 + 70-200 f/2.8L IS II ready to go with a custom mode just for this if I spot one again.

My plan:

  • AI Servo + Center AF '+' cluster
  • 6 fps
  • I generally shoot Av, f/3.5 or so (plenty of light, no need to shoot wide open)
  • Will set ISO to get at least 1/2000s (when I saw this one ISO 400, was fine for this).
  • Usually blue skies here, so a CPL is probably going to be used.
Any changes you'd recommend? I have a 2x T/C but I honestly didn't need it given how close it came this time.

- A
 

applecider

EOS 7D MK II
May 20, 2012
486
42
Portland Oregon, Cape Cod
I’d think about using the 2x converter with the 70-200, you can always zoom out.

You might want to practice on some smaller birds, I find that shooting against the blue sky that two stops of over exposure is often needed If you want to see feather details. The slower birds a shutter speed of 1/1000 can work for swallows 1/2500 is often needed.

Between over exposing and keeping the shutter speed up often iso climbs to close to 1000 or more if cloudy, so the two stop loss of a polarizer is not always wanted.

As always YMMV :-*
 
Dec 6, 2016
252
139
I generally use manual with auto iso maxed out at 1600 . If i need to over or under expose i use exposure compensation. AF is centre point with 4 helpers and normally the 1st AF case in the menu. Raptors are normally pretty cruisy and with IS you can easily shoot as low as 1/1000sec but I try to go faster when possible.
 

jmeyer

http://www.jmeyerphotography.net/
Dec 11, 2014
81
135
40
Wisconsin
www.jmeyerphotography.net
This time of the year the new brood of immature hawks are usually all brown and white and don't get into adult plumage for at least a year. Your raptor could be any of the hawks, but I would start by looking at some of the bigger common hawks like Red-tailed, since you said wing span of around 4'. Most "bird" websites have pictures of adults and immatures for reference.

Jeremy
 

BeenThere

EOS 6D MK II
Sep 4, 2012
823
151
Impossible to tell which variety of hawk you saw without a photo. Can be difficult to tell even with a photo given the variety of plumage colors with adult, immature, season, and location.

I would ditch the polarizer and set a manual exposure that gets you to about 1/2000 sec. remember that undersides of bids flying are in shadow requiring some plus compensation. 300 or 400mm will be a better focal length.
 

Valvebounce

EOS 5D SR
Apr 3, 2013
4,078
82
52
Isle of Wight
Hi ahsanford.
Lots of good / great advice here already. I have the 70-200L II and the 2xIII and I would stay away from the 2x converter if you are not needing it, it is my experience that zooming out to 250mm with the 2xIII will give a worse image than cropping for the same size image without using the converter. YMMV. If you are focal length limited there is no alternative. This lens does work really with the 1.4xIII if you can justify it.

Cheers, Graham.

ahsanford said:
Was sitting on the back porch today and a decent sized raptor of some sort swooped by. Brown and tan for the most part, a healthy 4'+ wingspan, relatively small head and beak. I got a few lazy gliding circles not twenty feet from me and off it went.

I checked my local source:
https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/birds/raptors

It had the mottled breast/belly of the peregrine shown on this page in the top right, but the head looked different. It looked most like an adult Merlin of the birds I cross-referenced from above at my alma mater's ornithology website, but it was considerably bigger than the Merlin dimensions of a 2' wingspan listed there.

Any ideas of what it is?

I don't bird or plan to get into birding, but I wouldn't mind capturing this one or others that might swoop by. We're on the top of a hill and it's not uncommon to see this, so I thought I'd leave my 5D3 + 70-200 f/2.8L IS II ready to go with a custom mode just for this if I spot one again.

My plan:

  • AI Servo + Center AF '+' cluster
  • 6 fps
  • I generally shoot Av, f/3.5 or so (plenty of light, no need to shoot wide open)
  • Will set ISO to get at least 1/2000s (when I saw this one ISO 400, was fine for this).
  • Usually blue skies here, so a CPL is probably going to be used.
Any changes you'd recommend? I have a 2x T/C but I honestly didn't need it given how close it came this time.

- A
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
DJL329 said:
Possibly a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned Hawk.

This site is good for finding birds, as it has a "Similar Species" section, which lists birds that look about the same.

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Coopers_Hawk/id
Yep. (That's the website I was referring to.) It always amazes me that my alma mater has such a silly breadth of institutions within it, but that is our motto after all.

- A
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
Valvebounce said:
Hi ahsanford.
Lots of good / great advice here already. I have the 70-200L II and the 2xIII and I would stay away from the 2x converter if you are not needing it, it is my experience that zooming out to 250mm with the 2xIII will give a worse image than cropping for the same size image without using the converter. YMMV. If you are focal length limited there is no alternative. This lens does work really with the 1.4xIII if you can justify it.

Cheers, Graham.
Thx. No 2x, I think. I have bigger concerns about my ability to frame, track, etc. this guy with the 2x on there. I am unskilled at this that getting a tighter crop is a gamble I won't get the shot at all. Also, T/C AF speed leaves something to be desired.

- A
 

2n10

EOS 7D MK II
Aug 25, 2012
637
0
55
Sparks, NV
Definitely look at the larger hawks given the wing size. Odds on favorite would be a Red-tailed Hawk as is the most common hawk in the US and more so the west. Avoid the 2X TC as it will make it harder to get focus due to it slowing focus speed down. No need for polarizer also.
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
2n10 said:
Definitely look at the larger hawks given the wing size. Odds on favorite would be a Red-tailed Hawk as is the most common hawk in the US and more so the west. Avoid the 2X TC as it will make it harder to get focus due to it slowing focus speed down. No need for polarizer also.
Ooh, developments!

The CPS tooth fairy just arrived and left me a lovely 200 f2L IS. 8)

Any reason why it might the better call for this? I'm not light constrained so I don't think I need the extra stop. I tend to think of the 70-200 f/2.8L IS II zoom plus it's wonderfully quick AF as still the better call, but I defer to the ringers here.

- A
 

unfocused

EOS 5D SR
I don't want to be insulting, but are you absolutely certain it wasn't a vulture? The flight pattern and size you reference sounds an awful lot like a vulture and determining feather colors can be very deceiving depending on the light.

If it indeed had the pattern you are describing, it probably was a hawk, and the most common large hawk is the Red Tail.
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
unfocused said:
I don't want to be insulting, but are you absolutely certain it wasn't a vulture? The flight pattern and size you reference sounds an awful lot like a vulture and determining feather colors can be very deceiving depending on the light.

If it indeed had the pattern you are describing, it probably was a hawk, and the most common large hawk is the Red Tail.
Not insulting at all. I don't know birds and it's a fair question.

Like I said, coloring and head/beak size seemed spot on for a Merlin but it was simply 2x the size. Other than Osprey wings vs. Non-Osprey wings (and it did not have Osprey wings), can't tell other features like tails and body shape and what not.

- A
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
Looked at the red tailed hawk and only the juvenile looks close -- most of the pics I've seen show a harder white region under the wings and on the body than what I saw. What I saw was heavily mottled brown and white.

- A
 

unfocused

EOS 5D SR
ahsanford said:
Looked at the red tailed hawk and only the juvenile looks close -- most of the pics I've seen show a harder white region under the wings and on the body than what I saw. What I saw was heavily mottled brown and white.

- A
Keep in mind that a juvenile isn't necessarily smaller than an adult, just isn't mature yet. Plus there are morphs and variations within the species, it can be hard to accurately judge size without having a reference point, the light can play tricks on you and other types like Red Shouldered and Broad Winged are difficult to distinguish unless you have a picture to study.

My wife knows birds really well and she has to take the picture and then study the books to figure out what it was. If you think hawks are bad, try sparrows. :)
 

ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
unfocused said:
ethanz said:
Adam, stop now before its too late. If you go down this journey much longer, you may be hooked and become a birder before you know it.
Excellent advice!
;D

Fear not, I don't have the patience for birding.

At best I'll have the camera + 70-200 sitting on the porch ottoman/bean-bag thing while we have happy hour on the porch. If I don't see this bird before my old fashioned, sazerac or penicillin is finished, I'll pack it up.

- A
 

ethanz

1DX II
Apr 12, 2016
951
205
ethanzentz.com
One day I went to take pictures of birds. Less than six months later I bought a 200-400 (in part) to fuel my birding photography. I blame my friend for taking me that day to shoot birds.
 
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ahsanford

Particular Member
Aug 16, 2012
7,942
490
ethanz said:
One day I went to take pictures of birds. Less than six months later I bought a 200-400 (in part) to fuel my birding photography. I blame my friend for taking me that day to shoot birds.
I don't get the itch like that unless I'm hiking or on vacation in a really picturesque place.

Birding -- the realities of the size/cost of the glass, waiting, the constantly being out in the wild, dealing with mosquitoes, etc. are simply not my jam. When I'm outdoors we're constantly moving/hiking/exploring.

And the high I got for finally capturing a bald eagle in the wild last year wasn't that much of a high. Landscapes, candids, travel, etc. get me going much much more.

- A
 

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