Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rough-legged Hawk

The Buteo genus of hawks can be a bit difficult to identify without experience.  One of the problems for me is that Red-tailed Hawks are so common here in the Portland area and the other species in the genus, not so much.  Another problem is that the most common place to find Buteos is sitting on roadside posts, not an easy place to stop and get a good view.
With variations within just the Red-tailed Hawk species, light-morph, dark-morph, Harlan's, etc, I have more than once tried to turn a Red-tailed into one of its relatives.
During my trip to Wallowa county last month, I found several Rough-legged Hawks along the road. It was my first sighting and I got a lot of opportunity to view them.  In the pictures above and below, you can see that their legs are covered with feathers, a trait that inspired their name.
It was interesting trying to get close enough to get a good picture.  I was on Crow Creek Road during my first encounter.  I tried driving along slowly, but the bird would always fly down to the next pole just as I was getting into range.
Finally, I gave up and decided to drive on, when I noticed that it didn't spook nearly as easily if I drove past faster.  That trick got me the pics above and below.
Being a regular reader of OBOL has kept me mindful of disturbing birds as little as possible while trying to get pictures.  I was a little concerned that I was being too aggressive as it would fly from post to post as I slowly approached.  At one point it flew off onto the grassy hillside along the road.  That made me even more concerned in that I thought I had scared it away from its watch for prey.  I was relieved a bit later while watching it with my binoculars when I discovered that the reason for flying off is that it spied prey out on the hillside and was now feasting on it.
Here's another Rough-legged, again on Crow Creek Road, but along the paved stretch.  Notice the improvement in the quality of the posts. :-)

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