One good bird can “make” a trip and yesterday a male Rough-legged Hawk made my trip to Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge worthwhile. The lowest temperature I saw was a mere 18°F and there was a light frost on the ground when I reached the auto tour route. I didn’t see many birds at all on the north side. I stopped briefly where the road turns south and my heart swelled a bit when I could hear Tundra Swans of in the distance, I love that sound almost as much as I do the calls of Sandhill Cranes. I was disappointed though that I wasn’t seeing birds close enough to the road to photograph except for a few coots and two or three smaller grebes.
So as I was leaving the auto tour route I thought I would head even further north and see what the raptors were like in the Golden Spike area. But… not long after reaching the paved road I spotted this male Rough-legged Hawk perched on a gnarly, weather worn stump in the marshy area next to the Bear River.
The Rough-legged Hawk was very cooperative and seemed to ignore my presence in my Jeep. It looked my way, looked over the marsh and down at the ground close to the stump but never seemed like it was alarmed. There was still a bit of frost on the marsh grasses and stump even though the sun had been up for more than an hour.
The hawk lifted its tail and I knew it was going to send a stream of poop into the grasses below so I fired away and caught the poop in mid air.
And then the Rough-legged Hawk roused and gave me a great view of the feathered tarsi and showed the feathers reaching all the way down to the talons. It also showed the small bill and the banding on the tail.
It was delightful to sit with this Rough-legged Hawk for a bit listening to the sounds of birds overhead, feeling the coolness of the morning on my skin and enjoying being out in nature. I waited for the bird to take off hoping that it would fly west so that I could get lift off shots but as it often happens the hawk took off facing north and away from me.
This Rough-legged Hawk made my day.
Life is good.