Primordial Light: Class Aves, Raptors
March 27, 2011
All photos on this page by David Illig, with help from professional photographer David Muse, the staff and volunteeers of Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area, and some friends—old, new, and feathered. Copyright © 2011 by David Illig. Please ask for permission prior to using these photos for any purpose. In most instances I grant permission for use of my photographs free-of-charge to not-for-profit organizations, especially, but not limited to, K-12 education. But please ask.

Thanks to Baltimore professional photographer David Muse for conducting the educational and entertaining “Raptor Shoot” at the Soldiers Delight Natural Environmental Area in Owings Mills, Maryland, on March 26, 2011. See David’s web sites, and for more information on David Muse and guided photographic safaris. And be sure to visit the Soldiers Delight web site, because this is a remarkable natural habitat in the midst of suburbia. I can’t say enough about the skill, hard work, and friendliness of Park Ranger Vogelpohl and the skilled volunteer bird handlers at Soldiers Delight.

A raptor is a bird of prey. Raptors include eagles, hawks, falcons, and owls. The word raptor is related to the word rapture and it comes from a Latin root meaning to sieze.

The birds depicted here are all native to central-east Maryland (Baltimore and surrounding areas, among others).

For me, an astrophotographer and occasional snapshooter, learning that I could actually use a camera to make photographs in broad daylight was a real eye-opener, so to speak.

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysaetos
golden eagle

Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus
The birds depicted on this page are of one mind. “Are you prey?”

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus
A trade secret revealed. All of these birds were wearing leather restraining straps called jesses. In some instances the bird‘s stance hid the jess; in other instances it was necessary to remove the jess in Photoshop ® to give the bird a more natural appearance. Photoshop also made it possible to remove annoying extraneous features and enhance the images in other ways. Most of these images have been pre-processed in Aperture and then edited in Photoshop. Photoshop editing includes removing unwanted elements, correcting color casts. cropping, and sharpening. Mouse over the photo below to see the original version. This is the full-frame from the Canon 5D Mk II, reduced in resolution for web display. The original is a 21-MB raw image.

Barn Owl, Tyto alba
The beautiful barn owl looks to me as if he’s hunching his shoulders and leaning forward
to squint at you, like an old man with failing eyesight, trying to see who you are.
He seems to be saying “Come closer and let me see if you are a man or a mouse!”

Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
Red-Tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
It isn’t difficult to see how the red-tailed hawk got his name.

Turkey vulture, Cathartes aura
For some reason vultures get a bad rap, even their appearance. Many people regard them as ugly.
To me, turkey vulture faces always look as if the bird is humble and self-effacing, beseeching me
to like him and be nice to him. We are visited by turkey vultures frequently at our home and we
like them! Below, Big Bird: spreading its five-foot-span wings to warm them in the sun.

American Kestrel, Falco sparverius
The beautiful kestrel reduces the scale of the previous photo by several feet. This individual is shown at about 3/4 life size.

Eastern Screech Owl, Megascops asio, Gray Morph
Eastern Screech Owl—Gray Morph
Eastern Screech Owl—Rufous Morph
”Would you stop with the shutter clicking already!? We're tryin’ to nap here.”

Barred Owl—Strix varia (Hoot Owl)
This individual has been blinded by cataracts. He is very fortunate to live in a reserve
where caring people cater all of his meals, because he could not survive in the wild.
barred owl

Black Vulture—Coragyps atratus
black vulture

Next Page: Phylum Arthropoda
Main Page: Primordial Light