Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 22, 2009

Lesser Nighthawk

Filed under: behavior, Birds, composition, favorite places, style — richditch @ 1:17 pm
Lesser Nighthawk with chick

Lesser Nighthawk with chick

Some field sessions are so special that they form lasting memories, and this image is the result of one such experience.

I had heard from a photographer friend that a Lesser Nighthawk has ben encountered close to the trail on a birdwalk at the Desert Botanical Gardens a few days earlier. The DBG is one of those special places that rewards visitors with wonderful experiences no matter how many times one has visited before. My wife worked there as a volunteer until health issues made that difficult, and we maintained an annual membership as long as our finances allowed.

I went to the DBG as soon as possible hoping to find the nighthawk and was fortunate enough to meet the volunteer who had led the walk when the bird was discovered, so he was able to lead me to the proper spot. Knowing where to look I came back the following morning, but even knowing where the nighthawk was it was very difficult to see just a few feet away.

After finally locating it I sat down on the hard rocky ground and loose cactus spines, in plain view of the nighthawk. It was completely comfortable with my presence and showed no signs of disturbance. I was able to sit with it for about 90 minutes and took many images. At one point the adult got up on its short legs and walked less than two feet to get out of the bright hot Arizona sun leaving the two chicks in plain view directly in front of me! In a few short moments the chicks followed the adult and regained their shady position.

It was an incredibly relaxing time for me, with a complete feeling of acceptance by the nighthawk. During my time sitting on the ground I also got to watch other birds in the area go about their business – Cactus Wrens, Curve-billed Thrashers, Verdins. Also active nearby were ground squirrels and lizards. A truly remarkable photo session.

Compositionally, this is an example of my preferred bird in habitat style, with very understated color. D70, 300/2.8 with 1.4x converter, ISO 200, 1/60th second at f/16, with low power fill flash for the shadows.

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