Birds of Prey – Raptor Art
Walking around my neighborhood got me interested in birds of prey. I live in an urban area reasonably close to the Atlantic coast. I have a routine that has me taking morning walks around my neighborhood trails on a regular basis. Part of this walk is along a freshwater lake and small stream. As I’ve walked adjacent to these waterways over the past couple of years, I noticed a change one day. A large pile of twigs start to accumulate on top of an electric transmission tower. I then noticed some fairly large birds of prey flying overhead within the vicinity of this stick formation. These birds were different from my usual sightings of Great Blue Herons often see on my walks.
Then I noticed tiny heads bobbing appearing in what I then realized was an Osprey aerie, or large nest. This shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, since I’ve seen many of these aeries on transmission towers on my occasional highway drives.
Osprey – Raptor Bird of Prey
The Osprey is a large raptor also known as a sea hawk, river hawk and fish hawk and generally feed during the daytime. Their diet is almost completely made up of fish, but have been known to eat small rodents, hares and amphibians. I noticed that the adult Osprey pay close attention as I walk under their nest. Mom can’t be too careful. At least she hasn’t swooped down on me yet. These ospreys generally stick around the nest until October and then fly south to South America, but occasionally to California and Florida. It’s great to see such noble creatures relatively close by.
Interestingly, one day I noticed the nest was gone. The electric utility people took down the nest and set up obstacles for future nests. Even though I understand that these nests on transmission lines can be dangerous for the birds, I was sad to see the nest go.
However, the following spring, a new aerie showed up on another utility pole across the road. When you’ve got a great location with lots of fresh water and fish, they’re not giving up so easily!
Harris’s Hawk – A Falconer’s Favorite
A while ago, I made a visit to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum outside of Tucson in Arizona. One of the incredible sights there was a bird of prey called Harris’s Hawk. They are fascinating to view up close.
They have a very regal look. Unlike most raptors, Harris’s Hawks are cooperative hunters. Because areas such as the Sonoran desert, where this hawk lives, give lots of cover for their prey, they will act similar to wolves and flush prey out of their hiding places towards other hawks in their group. They are also known to prey on birds as large as the Great Blue Heron, the largest North American heron.
The Harris’s Hawk is a popular raptor in Falconry. This is primarily because of their intelligence which makes training relatively easy. Falconry is the sport of hunting animals in the wild by means of trained birds of prey. Their prey often consists of squirrels and rabbits. The earliest accounts of falconry date back to around 2000 BC.
Harris’s Hawk Falconry Portrait
After viewing the powerful raptor, Harris’s Hawk, in person, I decided I would dabble in creating a portrait of the noble creature, but in a style different from my usual approach. I thought of cultures such as the ancient Romans and Vikings with their war or parade banners that created a heroic image of birds and various creatures, both real and imagined.
As such, these raptors were definitely noble and in most ways a true predator.
After creating my first raptor portrait, I thought I would have fun with my subject. With the popularity of Steampunk fashion and objets d’art, I though the idea of showing a bird of prey in that fashion would be interesting.
Here is an animal with a strong focus and keen capabilities. Let’s mechanize it! Perhaps have it world-weary after many a battle on the feeding front. Hunting prey, but also perhaps being hunted as prey.
Viewing Nature Differently
As I view nature all around me, I have also widened my idea on how I might portray nature within my artistic doodles. Should I be realistic in all nature’s glory, or should I reinterpret what I am seeing. As you approach a subject with its infinite possibilities, how you interpret a subject can change as you grow and mature. It would be a great exercise to continue with the same subject and reinterpret multiple times over the years. How have you evolved over the years?
Have you new insight on an old subject? I might give it a try!