Sunday, December 8, 2013

Northern Harriers at Granger Lake

This afternoon, we took a hike around Willis Creek Park at Granger Lake.  In addition to numerous Red Tail Hawks, we also watched several Northern Harriers, a new species for us. We watched the hawks hunt by skimming over the tops of the low brush and landing down in the grass rather than at a photographically convenient spot like the top of a tree!

This is the field over which we were watching the hawks hunt. The sunset glow accentuated the breast coloration.

Unlike the landscape, getting a photo of the hawks, was very challenging. They were in constant motion and our little super-zoom camera does not stop motion very well.

The first two photos are taken of hawks as they skimmed back and forth over the surface of the field. Though there were two birds hunting, I am not sure whether these photos are of one or two individuals.

However, both images are likely of females which, per the descriptions in Hawks at a Distance by Jerry Liguori, have dark streaks that juveniles lack. The rufous breast color can occur with either females or juveniles. The books also indicates that the flying pattern and the distinctive white rump with long tail identify this raptor. The white patch is certainly very pronounced and shows up well in these two images.

Canon SX50 HS - ISO-400, f/6.5, 1/125s
Canon SX50 HS - ISO-400, f/6.5, 1/80s

The next two photos were taken from further away and  slightly earlier in the day. They are both of the same individual soaring above the field. The presence of breast streaks is not as clear but there are hints of it in the second shot so I am guessing another female, perhaps the same as one of the previous photos.

Canon SX50 HS - ISO-400, f/6.5, 1/640s
Canon SX50 HS - ISO-400, f/6.5, 1/1000s

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