After several years of feeding the local backyard birds, I can attest that feeding brings a sense of pleasure watching them eat during many cold days of winter. About three years ago a Cooper's Hawk would stop by and perch in the adjacent tree-line and watch the bird activity. Knowing the diet of a Cooper's Hawk, I was wary about the consequences because the Cooper's Hawk is a top predator and prey on birds.
One morning I was outside placing feed for the birds and, after I loaded the feeders, not one bird flew down to take a bite - they usually flock the feeders as soon as I place the food out especially if it is cold. I watched as the birds sat motionless in the brush, shrubs, and trees as I wondered why they were not interested in the feeders this afternoon. As I looked around to take inventory of the regular visitors' something caught my eye - it was a Cooper's Hawk, so no wonder the birds would not come out of their spots because they knew the Hawk was nearby and hungry himself.
So, what do you do when a Cooper's Hawk shows up in your back yard - you get your camera and lens of course. Unfortunately, it was late in the day, plus the Hawk being obscured behind branches was also a challenge. After moving my shooting position several times, this was the best shot I could get before he took flight.
To capture the opportunity in a photograph I pulled out my Z7 camera system with my Nikkor 600mm. If you are into bird photography you know birds do not pose for your photos and in this situation, I was losing light making a near impossible photo for a clear angle with good light. Photo Tip: Due to dimming light conditions and the Hawks position, I switched my camera to auto ISO and set the shutter speed to 1/1000 with a shutter of f/ 5.6 - What followed was quick and deadly for the Blue Jay. The Cooper's Hawk swooped down and took a Blue Jay to the Forest Ground not pleasant to watch for me or the other Blue Jays who were very vocal in the distance, sad to see nature in action.
One could argue that allowing the camera to control the ISO may not result in the best of images if the camera uses a very high ISO in order to maintain the selected shutter in low light situations, however, with the Nikon Z7 I set the upper allowed limit for the ISO and the camera will not go above the high ISO mark I set. With the Nikon Z7, you have several options when it comes to managing shutter speed and or ISO. You can set the slowest shutter you do not wish to go below and, the camera will raise the ISO to ensure the shutter speed is maintained, in my situation I simply set the allowable upper ISO limit.
Several other Hawk Encounters occurred last winter in an area I visit for local bird photography - I normally get out on the trail at first light and in my part of the world sunrise is around 7am in the winter. One morning I was out armed with only my binoculars with the intent to take a walk and spot what birds were along the trail. Sitting on an old tree, I spotted a Cooper's Hawk in the early brisk cold morning sunning himself and, this was the second encounter with this particular Cooper's Hawk in the same area. The next morning I brought along my Nikkor 400mm and once again the Cooper's Hawk was perched in the adjacent tree sunning himself, only this time I had my camera. One image was captured using the Nikon 400mm 1/1250 f/7.1 and a Nikon D500 - I find that shutter/f stop combo works well with my 400 or 600 for birds.
One other image as marked in the library I used a Nikon 1 V3 system with a Nikon 1 70-300mm - I could not believe the results from a CX sized sensor camera.
A birds worst Nightmare - The Cooper's Hawk.