And a beautiful, dark morph Red-tailed Hawk. Harbingers of a good winter for raptors?
I’ve been on the lookout for Rough-legged Hawks for several weeks now but this adult, yesterday morning, was the first one I’ve seen. It wasn’t close and it had its back to me but at least I got some photos to document the occasion.
Roughies are a true arctic species, spending the breeding season in the wilds of arctic and subarctic Alaska and Canada, so when they first get here they’re aloof and incredibly spooky. Even as far away as I was, I was making this bird nervous so when it took off it launched away from me, giving me nothing but butt shots.
For me, finding my first Roughie of the season is a big deal. It represents hope for a good winter for them, and for me as a bird photographer. Especially since our Swainson’s Hawks are now gone for the winter.
21 minutes later I found this beautiful dark morph Red-tailed Hawk in an olive tree. Readers know that I have a soft spot for dark morphs but I haven’t photographed one since the summer of 2021, so finding this handsome guy was a real treat.
When ‘he’ eventually took off I didn’t have much luck getting flight shots I like but this one was sharp and it shows the red tail of the adult. After this shot he curled around to his left and came in closer to me but he flew behind some trees and when he reappeared I had difficulty locking focus on him again. As a result. many of my flight shots were soft.
This one was also sharp but he was very close to the top of the frame, thus the wonky composition.
I’m encouraged. It’s been a long spring, summer and fall with no Roughies and far fewer Red-tails than usual so it was heartening to find both of these birds in such a short time. The raptor-lover in this naturally pessimistic bird photographer finally feels some optimism.
Time will tell if it’s warranted.
Autor Ron Dudley