bearriver Blog: Winter's not rough...it's rough-legged!

Winter's not rough...it's rough-legged!

Saturday, November 10

So - the title is corny, I know, but just had to say it.  And with all the snow this weekend and colder temperatures...it fits perfectly with the return of the lovely Rough-legged hawks!  

I took a spin around our Auto loop in the snow yesterday early-eve and had lots of great birding. I didn't realize how much I look forward to the return of these stunning tundra raptors and just how handsome they are.  They never cease to amaze me with their ability to perch on the tiniest of branches...looking like at any moment the twig will snap, yet they are calm and statuesque. I also love how - unlike many other birds - each individual seems to look different.  This one has more white on it's head...that one looks almost all brown and streaked...while the next is somewhere in between. It felt perfectly apt they they seemed to arrive in numbers (I saw at least 10) just as the snow did; I also think that there may not be anything to match watching a rough-legged hawk fly low over a frozen field as big flakes of white fall gently around it. Aaaaaaaahhhhh...winter.

Now, of course, "roughies" were not the only birds around the loop.  The amount of waterfowl, especially in southern unit 3 is amazing. Thousands of pintail and teal and gadwall - and not to mention another winter specialty...Tundra swans!  There was also the last bastion of shorebird flocks - hurriedly gorging on food and probably wondering why they had stayed so late.  Dowitchers, godwits and yellowlegs remained..but looked furtive and frio out there in the sleety snow, so they may not stay long.  And little flocks of pipits were pipping here and there as well...rarely sitting still for long enough to get a good look at.

So, eventhough the seasons have changed, the excellent birding has not.  Enjoy a saunter around the loop and let us know what you see . . . and have a wonderful winter and holiday season!

 - JasonRough-legged Hawk (USFWS)

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