Thursday, September 30, 2010

Red-tailed hawks on the move

Over the past few weeks I've been photographing hawks as they move south past Cherry Lake and the upper Indian Head Creek valley. There is something about seeing a hawk passing by in autumn that carries with it thoughts of the summer past and the winter to come. It's the mystery of where a bird spent its breeding season and where it will roost and hunt in the colder weeks ahead, but something of my own drifting through another year of life seems to get caught up in the motion of a predatory bird over the land.

Here is an adult red-tailed hawk in classic western red-tail plumage. This bird passed low over me several times one day in late summer.

By late August the red-tails were moving by every day in a steady trickle. We have a pair of Krider's red-tailed hawks, which are very pale, nesting on the northern edge of our land, not far from Deep Lake. This juvenile bird (finely barred tail) may be from this local nest. I'll try to get more photos of them when they return next spring. Here are two out of focus shots of the same bird on the 18th of September.

Many hawks pass by along the ridge just south and west of Cherry Lake, cathing updrafts there before heading out across Strawberry Lake Community Pasture. Here are some more passing red-tails, all distant shots.

Part of the fun in late September and early October is the identification challenge represented by the darker red-tails that seem to arrive at that time. Some are from the Harlan's Hawk race, once thought to be a separate species. Here is a shot of a Harlan's passing over the grassland sw of Cherry Lake on September 26. Notice the pale streaks on the upper breast.

Harlan's hawks summer in the woods of central and Western Alaska and northern British Columbia, but migrate through the northern Great Plains. Audubon who named it harlani after Dr. Richard Harlan called it "the black warrior."

We also see dark phase Red-tailed Hawks of the western race. This is a particularly black one (notice no pale streaking on the breast). It's finely barred tail, instead of the red tail gives it away as a bird born this year.

1 comment:

  1. I've photographed and seen many Red Tails this past spring and again now as I drive along Saskatchewan highways in my area.


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