I love the engaging look of the Red-shouldered Hawk chick on our April 2007 cover. The fuzzy-headed nestling stares from the intimate confines of its nest directly at the reader. How, I wondered, did photographer Jon Klein manage to get such a bird's-eye view?
I called Klein at his home in Mendocino, California, and he told me that he drew on his boyhood tree-climbing skills. The nimble 29-year-old photographer said the hawk's nest was about 30 to 40 feet above the ground, but the branch of a nearby oak tree offered a perfect view for pictures. Klein set up a photography blind crafted from ropes, boards and mosquito netting on the sturdy branch about 15 feet out from the big tree's central trunk.
But poison oak covered the trunk of the tree he was climbing, so he used an orchard ladder to avoid the toxic leaves on his climb up. Klein said he has spent many hours climbing trees, beginning when he was a young boy, so he his lofty perch was familiar territory.
"I wore a harness and other safety gear," he said, to prevent a fall to the ground in case of a slip. He spent hours at a time in the blind on six different days and suffered no mishaps or spills. But his gear was no protection against persistent attacks from an unexpected aggressor.
"A lot of ants were biting me as I took the pictures," he recalled, saying that there were thousands of them and were a nuisance for nearly every moment he spent in the big oak tree. -- E.M.