Although I have a series of images that I like from this encounter, this one is my favorite. The blowing snow illustrates clearly the bitter cold of the day. Photographed with a Canon 1D X using a 500mm IS II lens with a 1.4x TC and propped. Settings were f/5.6, 1/1250 sec and ISO-800.
In mid-December I received a call from a friend at a local business that there was a Merlin outside that had captured a Pigeon. Typically, when a Merlin is with a catch it won’t leave until it has a full crop. It could be in the same spot for an hour under more ideal weather conditions. With windchill temperatures in the single-digits that time would be dictated by how long it takes the Pigeon to freeze solid. I threw my gear into my Jeep and raced over as quickly as possible. When I arrived I found this female Merlin out in the bitter cold pulling any meat she could before the Pigeon froze solid. She was obviously very aware of my presence but unconcerned as she continued eating. Using my 500mm lens with an attached 1.4x teleconverter (at 700mm) I had left enough distance between us that I knew she was not worried about the company, only about getting a meal. After she left we examined the pigeon and found it solidly frozen. The lunch was over. My total time with the Merlin was six minutes from my first shot to my last before she finished and flew off. My fingers were numb but I was happy that I had ventured into the cold. It always pays to have friends who will keep you in mind when they spot something interesting. December 15, 2016