As farmers harvest their crops, hawks enjoy using the hay bales to scout for field mice. This rough-legged hawk stared at me from her perch for a moment before returning her attention to the field.
Through the winter, Rough-legged Hawks, as with the adult above and the juvenile below, keep watch over the Prairies. These hawks are equipped for the cold temperatures and many choose to skip the migration and over winter here. As the weather warms, their cousins, the Red-tailed, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and Broad-winged Hawks are starting to return.
One of the great joys of spring for me is the return of these hawks to the fields and grasslands. However with a few great encounters with the Rough-legged hawks shown here, I’m not in any particular rush.
The robins have been coming home for the last couple of weeks and a flight of about thirty Dark-eyed Juncos swarmed our backyard a couple of days ago. So, spring seems close at hand. I’m looking forward to more time with all the different hawks that spend their summers raising chicks here.
… And that is a great thing. Everywhere may be an exaggeration but if you drive along the range roads west of Calgary or hike along the edges of the fields around the Springbank and Bragg Creek areas, you are very likely to spy one of these beautiful birds perched on a treetop or telephone pole. If you are lucky, or have the time to wait, you can see them gliding over grassy areas searching for the small creatures that they prefer to dine on. In my wildlife searches this winter, I have enjoyed seeing many of these hawks.
Above and below a Rough-legged is on the hunt in West Bragg Creek.
(please click on any image if you want to open a new page with a higher resolution version)
Below, a couple of hawks working the fields around the Springbank Airport came close enough and stayed around long enough for me to photograph.
Driving up to Jasper on Friday, Jeff and I detoured through the Bow Valley Parkway to see what wildlife might be in the meadows or along the river. We saw very little on the ground, one skittish elk and that was about it. However, a little higher up, we spotted two separate Rough-legged hawks. They were at opposite ends of the parkway, this one was in the skeleton forest in the Sawback prescribed burn area. Jeff did well to spy this raptor where it was huddled on a branch a hundred yards off of the road. With a long lens, I was able to pull it in and when it decided to fly I had a couple of seconds to make a couple of nice images.
The snow was falling pretty softly, a remnant of the storm that ushered winter into the park over the past week. With the monochromatic background, the caramel and brown patterns in the hawk’s feathers looked particularly nice to my eye.