Last Saturday, I was hiking through the fresh snow in a small local prairie when I found this interesting print.
An interesting print in fresh snow. Leadership Center Prairie – Aurora, Nebraska.
Clearly the print was made by a bird, but what kind, and what was it doing? Judging by the size of the wing print, the bird was about the size of a robin. There were no other tracks or prints in the snow nearby, other than the small streak just to the left of the bird print.
Here’s my best guess – see what you think:
I think the print was made by a small raptor; probably a sharp-shinned hawk. My guess is that the hawk was swooping down after a sparrow, which was flying low to the ground. As the hawk neared the ground, the sparrow spotted it coming from its right, and was just able to evade the hawk – barely dragging its tail along the surface of the snow as it dodged away. Meanwhile, the hawk flared its wings to avoid hitting the ground, and flapped hard to regain the air – and both wings made slight contact with the snow as it did so. Its narrow tail also left a mark. The hawk’s feet scuffed the snow twice – once in the middle of the print, and again where the “head” of the print is as the bird lifted back into the air.
This photo was taken several years ago outside the house of my in-laws in eastern Nebraska. I don’t usually photograph birds, but I was there and the birds were there, and one thing led to another…
A red-bellied woodpecker pauses near a feeder during a snowstorm. Sarpy County, Nebraska.
It was snowing, but the mid-day light was still bright enough for photography. As the snow fell, I stood in my coveralls near several bird feeders, hoping the birds would ignore me. I had covered my camera in a plastic bag and wrapped my lens in cardboard (held on with rubber bands) – only the best technology for me! While the snow piled up on my camera, eyebrows, and beard, I pivoted the camera around on my tripod, attempting to focus on bird after bird as they came near the feeders. Most of the time, of course, the bird either landed in a non-photogenic spot or moved away before I could get a bead on it. In spite of that, I eventually managed to get a few useable shots.
This one is my favorite from the day – mainly because of the completely white background. It would look like a studio shot except for the blurry snowflakes coming past the tree trunk. In reality, the snow on the ground and in the air behind the bird just blurred together into a pure white background.