I want to share with you six images of six gorgeous birds of prey that I was lucky to photograph up close at the NatureVisions photography expo a few weekends ago.
The expo is a nicely organized collection of opportunities for people who want to learn about photography: There’s an all-day lecture on Friday by a respected nature photographer, followed by a large array of choices for shorter seminars on Saturday and Sunday, mixed in with chances to do some actual shooting. This year they offered a session where you could do flower photography, a chance to photograph macaws and other parrots (I wrote about that last week), and a session featuring birds of prey brought in for us to practice on.
There’s a wooded area right outside the performing-arts center where the expo took place, so the guy who provided the raptors, Deron Meador—more on him in a moment—would just bring a bird out of one of the cages and position it on a tree branch at the edge of the woods, giving us a nice natural backdrop for our images. (The birds were tethered, so they weren’t going anywhere.)
Deron had a whole bunch of cages with him, an incredible variety of raptors. Below are the ones I was able to photograph before I had to scoot off to an image-critique session I’d signed up for. First, an American kestrel, a small, colorful predator that you sometimes see on power lines along Pennsylvania roads:
Next, a barn owl, which impressed me with its big round face:
That facial disk, as it’s called, is designed to collect sounds and direct them toward the owl’s ears—wherever the heck those are.
Not to be confused with the barn owl is the barred owl, named for its striped feathers:
The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, which is one of my go-to sources for bird info, describes the barred owl as having “soulful brown eyes,” and I think that’s exactly right.
Deron also had a bird that’s definitely not from around here—a spectacled owl, which is found in Central and South America:
He also brought out a big bird of prey called a ferruginous hawk, a bird from the western part of the United States:
And maybe my favorite was a small owl called a burrowing owl:
Burrowing owls are pretty cute, wouldn’t you say? I would love to see them in the wild someday.
As for Deron Meador, the guy who brought us all of the birds, his organization is called Adventures with Raptors, and he doesn’t have a website yet—just a Facebook page. I’m not sure what to make of the business, to be honest. It’s not a nonprofit, I don’t think, but its goal is “to promote knowledge and education of the adaption, behavior, habitat, species biology, and conservation of birds of prey.” Which is obviously a good thing. I don’t love the fact that he or his assistant will sometimes capture an owl from the woods and keep it in captivity for the rest of its life, as falconers do. (I’m sure you can get special licenses to do this stuff, but still.) And I don’t know what to think about the fact that he’ll purchase an exotic egg for a lot of money, hatch the bird, and raise it in his home. I probably should try to learn more about that world.
But there’s no doubt that he does important work in bringing his birds to various events and giving schoolchildren and others a chance to see, appreciate, and learn about them. And I count myself lucky to have been able to see and photograph his beautiful birds up close.