In marshes and meadows across America, if you are very lucky, you may have the opportunity to see a steel gray hawk with piercing yellow eyes floating and gliding silently above the land as it hunts. This magnificent bird of prey is a Northern Harrier. It’s eerie ability to fly silently and even hover in place, has earned it the nickname “The gray ghost”.

On my last morning in Florida I visited a marsh where folks told me this bird can be found, but not often, or easily, which is SO often the case with wildlife. I had pretty much concluded that would be my experience as well, after walking probably 5 miles or more with no sign of him. I was pretty tired and had started walking back to my car, when I ran into an older gentleman carrying a camera. He was intrigued by my big lens (I get that a lot :) and wanted to ask me about it.

Suddenly he started shouting “Harrier!” and pointing out across the marsh. I saw the bird coming and started tracking him in the viewfinder. He flew past us and made a circle around the area, I panned the camera and photographed him the whole way. Then just as suddenly as he had appeared, he was gone.

My new friend began swearing like a drunken sailor as he was checking his pictures on the monitor of his camera. He said he got a half dozen images and none were in focus. I felt bad for him, I wouldn’t have even seen the Harrier if he had not bird-dogged him for me. I knew I had a bunch of tack sharp frames, but it seemed cruel to share them at that point, so I didn’t.

C’est la vie!

6 Replies to “The Gray Ghost – Northern Harrier”

  1. What a gorgeous bird, and very nicely captured. Those eyes really stand out, especially when you open the larger view of each image. It’s amazing how often we stumble into these sorts of situations. To some extent it’s a flip of the coin, but by getting out there and looking you’re able to take advantage of it if it shows. Too bad about the other photographer not nailing focus. That does hurt when that happens. But I’m glad to see you were very successful. We have harriers around here but I’ve yet to photograph one. Nicely done!

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