Blackbird Chasing a Hawk

If we’re lucky from time to time we get the opportunity to capture an interesting bit of nature playing out before our eyes.  I had one such opportunity on Saturday afternoon when I was able to photograph a blackbird chasing a hawk in flight.

I was sitting at my kitchen table having just returned from Grimsby harbour after trying to photograph some terns in flight with my Nikon 1 V2 and Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR. It was a very dull, grey, overcast day so I cut my session short and had returned home.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

I was casually looking at my tern images on the rear panel of my Nikon 1 V2 when I noticed a quick reflection on the top of my glass kitchen table of a hawk flying overhead. I jumped up from my chair and dashed out of the patio door onto the deck to try to get some images of the hawk in flight. Luckily I had not changed the settings on my camera so all I had to do was locate the hawk, acquire focus, and fire.

NIKON 1 V@ + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

I took a very short, initial burst of hawk images and was watching the hawk when I noticed a red-winged blackbird diving down aggressively from above the hawk. I figured something interesting was about to happen so I re-acquired focus on the hawk just as the blackbird entered the frame and began chasing the hawk.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

Since my Nikon 1 V2 was set for 15fps in AF-C with subject tracking I was able to capture a run of 25 images while keeping both birds in frame for just under 2 seconds. Within a moment the altercation was over and the blackbird and hawk flew off in different directions. I came back in from my deck wondering if my Nikon 1 gear had been able to capture anything usable.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

I went upstairs to my office and opened my files with DxO OpticsPro 10 and as I expected the background sky was terrible – just a wash of dull grey. I had my V2 set for spot metering in the hope that I could at least get decent metering on the terns I had been trying to photograph earlier and I hoped that setting would help with my hawk images. So, I begin working with the RAW files.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300 @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

I let OpticsPro 10 do its automatic adjustments, then took highlights down slightly (-10) and adjusted shadows a bit (+5). I moved Smart Lighting to ‘medium’, made some small adjustments to the Lens Softness settings, then applied PRIME noise reduction.

I then exported a DNG file into CS6. When the DNG files opened in CS6 they were quite dark as I had anticipated. I tweaked the contrast slightly, then was very aggressive with the shadow and white sliders which made a significant improvement to the files. I then took the files into the Nik Suite for some very minor, final adjustments.

NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm
NIKON 1 V2 + NIKON 1 CX 70-300mm @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO-160, efov 810mm

Given the poor lighting conditions I wasn’t expecting great images. As it turned out I did some acceptable quality ones for this article. All of the images needed to be cropped and they are all about 33% of the original frames. All things considered I was quite pleased with how my Nikon 1 V2 performed with the CX 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 lens.

If you would like to see the entire run of 25 AF-C images you can view them all by clicking on the YouTube link.

Technical Note: All images in this article were taken hand-held using a Nikon 1 V2 with Nikon 1 CX 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. The Nikon 1 V2 was set for 15fps in AF-C with subject tracking, VR was turned off. White balance was set to Auto. Auto 160-6400 ISO was used.

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Article, images and YouTube video images Copyright Thomas Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication of any kind, or adaptation is allowed without written consent.

6 thoughts on “Blackbird Chasing a Hawk”

  1. What superb photos of the blackbird mobbing the hawk. We have buzzards flying overhead quite often, and it’s not unusual to see other birds mobbing them, but I’ve never managed to photograph them. I must give it a try, though I think they are generally too far away, even using that lens. Thanks also for the very interesting article on what is in your Nikon 1 camera bag.

  2. Hi Tom – again a fantastic set which tells a (very brief!) story. It is amazing how these small birds will make the raptors run.

    Ron

    1. Glad you enjoyed the images Ron! Since I see this kind of behaviour more often in the late spring/early summer I’ve often wondered if this small bird behaviour is driven by a need they have to protect their chicks and fledglings.
      Tom

  3. Thanks for your most generous words, Terry, much appreciated! I think Lady Luck was sitting beside me on Saturday in order to get those images…and yes…all in about 2 seconds then it was all over.

    Tom

  4. Wow. All in two seconds, huh?!!!
    You’re one amazing photographer, Thomas– You make it all look so easy :))

    You make that v1 really sing…

    I’ve seen this scenario quite often in my walks as I do my bird photography, but I’ve never been able to capture it like this!

    Thanks for all you do for the photography community– Your work and your input helps so many of us.

    Blessings, Terry

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