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Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Short-eared Owls

Published February 12, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Snow Bunting

I made a quick stop at what used to be a favorite spot of mine tonight - only to find it had quickly become a very "public place".  As it was, I was on my way to a dinner party and only had a little time to spare anyway, so I didn't have to fight through the line of traffic along the road for very long.

I think the Rough-legged Hawk went unnoticed by all the other people who were focused on the owls.  I had this beauty to myself for a few minutes - until a Short-eared harassed it, flushing it from its perch.  It was my best view of a Rough-legged to date - albeit into the sun. A little post-processing brought out some more detail and you can see the feathery legs in one photo and those distinctively dark wrist patches. I believe this is a juvenile, due to the solid dark belly and pale underwings, chest, and head.

There was a Northern Harrier hunting off in the field a little further south and I enjoyed watching her for a short while. I think she may have been successful in her hunt too!

The Short-eareds did not disappoint, although there was not much flying or hunting during my time there. The sun was still pretty strong when I left and I think it was just a little too early for them to get very active. They appeared to be enjoying "the collective" and drinking-in the vitamin D afforded by the sun as they perched, as many as 8 together in one of the trees.

I saw some bad birding behavior by one woman who didn't mind tromping through private property as she tried for the "perfect shot".  When approached by someone, she said she had permission.  Maybe so, but it was bad etiquette that could ruin the experience for others. Neighbors, who feel violated by the birders' or photographers' proximity to their homes and children at play, could very well enlist law enforcement to clear the area from onlookers one day soon. People were blocking mailboxes and driveways too. This location doesn't bode well for the future and I'm so saddened this has happened.

A tip from Karen Lee Lewis provided some nice looks at a huge flock of Snow Buntings.  Karen got a phenomenal shot of them that you can see on Flickr (with permission):  "A Drift of Snow Buntings".  There was a Snowy Owl nearby but I ran out of time on that one!  It would have been #17 or #18 for the season, I think!
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Rough-legged Hawk
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Short-eared Owl harassing the Rough-legged Hawk
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl female perched with a nearly full moon rising
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Northern Harrier flying low over the field
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Northern Harrier snagging prey