Rough-legged Hawk on a foggy dayRough-legged Hawk on a foggy winter day – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 257mm, natural light, not baited

This past Sunday I saw my first of the season Rough-legged Hawks and I was absolutely thrilled. There were definitely five different birds and a possible sixth. I mention possible because on the way to Bear River NWR’s auto tour route there was a Rough-legged Hawk perched on a tree on the north side of the river and on the way out I spotted a Roughie in flight about a half a mile away from that location and the bird that had been perched had left the tree. So it may have been the same bird or may not have been since all the Rough-legged Hawks seemed to be on the move.

I was dancing around in my seat seeing the Rough-legged Hawks again. They aren’t here in Utah for long because they only winter here.

Last winter their population numbers didn’t seem as high here in the Salt Lake Valley as in previous years and that may have been due in part to a crash in the vole population and because it was such a harsh winter with thick snow on the ground for long periods which made it difficult for any of the vole eating raptors to locate food.

The Rough-legged Hawk above was photographed in December of 2011 when the Roughies were in the valley in high numbers.

How many will we see this winter? That remains to be seen but I am excited all the same. The Rough-legged Hawks are back!