Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have the good sense to avoid winter on the prairies and they head south in late fall each year. It’s always exciting when they start to return and I have been seeing them more and more over the last couple of weeks. A little while ago, I found this one perched in a great, wild-looking tree along Highway 8, west of Calgary.
I could see the hawk was getting ready to fly so I watched from the ditch for a minute until it launched. There was a second hawk, presumably its mate, in a tight stand of trees so I figured that would be the direction it flew.
It landed beside its partner and when I drove past them I could see a nest buried in the far side of the trees. Photographs of the nest would not be in their best interest but I hope to see chicks fledge later in the spring.
The crops around the Springbank airport have all now been harvested. This leaves the fields shorn bare except for the uncollected bales of hay. The attraction drawing hawks is the exposed ground which presently offers little protection for field mice and the like. I have spent a fair bit of time walking and driving along the range roads to photograph some of the activity while it lasts. This Red-tailed hawk, one of the light morphs, was absolutely beautiful. It flew between a couple of posts before launching out across the meadows.
(please click on any image to open a higher resolution version)
With spring having taken control, the hawks have returned in earnest to the prairie and the foothills around Bragg Creek. During my hikes and drives, I often cross their path. When they wait long enough for me to pull up my camera, I really enjoy photographing them in flight. I’ve had a couple nice flight series so far and wanted to share a few ahead of a larger raptor project I’m working towards completing in the fall.
When the sun is low in the sky, the warm light can beautifully illuminate the stretched out primary feathers (the fingers), the splayed out tail feathers (particularly true with the Red-tailed hawks) and the patterns in the covert feathers (the layers covering the wing at the base of the primaries). With the sun behind, the backlit feathers can glow in a striking fashion which I find very appealing.