During the past few years, I have become quite obsessed during late June and July in photographing the nationally rare Norfolk Hawker in flight. I am very fortunate in that this species continues to expand its range and numbers in east Kent, particularly within the Stour Valley areas of Westbere and Grove Ferry / Stodmarsh. As well as being a stunning species to look at and study, this species also has the tendency to pause and hover briefly in flight, which allows the photographer the chance to capture them in flight if ready. Over the past few years, I have spend many hours watching the males flying up and down various dykes and in doing so, have become well tuned to their habits which in turn enable me to take photos in flight. After males have been on territory a while, they will often follow the same path, at the same speed and at the same height. This is not always the case though as sometimes they will be occupied with chasing off other males before returning back. In the photos I have taken successfully so far, I have been able to watch the males flying up and down and see where they pause to hover and at what height. This has helped me to already prepare the scene and sort out camera settings etc. I tend to use a Canon f4 300mm lens which gives me the distance and quality but can sometimes be tricky to locate the hawker quickly as I'm only a couple of metres away. If I have a close hawker hovering for me, I have also started to use my Sigma 150mm macro lens which gives me the chance to locate the subject quicker but the downside is the hawker is slightly further away and more cropping is needed. A lens of about 200mm would be ideal in this situation in an ideal world. I always use manual focus which enables me to locate the hawker quickly and f5.6 to blur out the background, then its a case of clicking away with the shutter button finger and hope you have some in focus. I also tend to move the focus ring ever so slightly as I'm firing off the shots as this sometimes helps with obtaining photos completely in focus, as often, a number will not quite be in focus. Its a game of chance but you've got to buy a ticket to win as some will say. I intend to spend more hours again this year trying for photographic excellence of them in flight and hopefully, with my knowledge and experience, I will continue to improve. I may even ask if others want to join me for a few photography sessions with them to improve on their flight shots and share information. Its a challenge I very much look forward to now every year and I hope you enjoy the selection below of some of my favourite images of this lovely hawker in flight.
Norfolk Hawker (male) in Flight