Yesterday I was able to photograph the largest buteo in North America, a gorgeous Ferruginous Hawk that was on top of a hill with the Stansbury Mountains of the West Desert in the background. I used to see them out that way often but haven’t in quite some time. That may mean the prey they usually hunt hasn’t been there in large enough numbers to sustain the hawks but I can’t be certain.
What I can be certain of is that I was thrilled to have found this hawk close enough to obtain high quality images of it as it sat on top of the hill looking around the area while I photographed it. Ferruginous Hawks are one of two species of North American buteos that have feathered legs all the way to their toes and although you can’t see that in this image you will in some of the photos below.
The Ferruginous Hawk moved around on the hill and I got ready to photograph it taking flight while hoping it would not take off with its back to me as I have had that happen more times than I can remember now in all the years that I have been photographing birds. The hawk look towards me and raised its wings…
And lifted off from the hill and with a single down stroke of its wings it was airborne. This photo shows the rusty-colored feathered legs, or feathered tarsi, very well. I liked the position of the hawk’s wings in this photo and how just a touch of the sky showed at the top right edge of the frame.
As the Ferruginous Hawk flew higher more of the sky was visible above the out of focus Stansbury Mountains that had just a hint of snow on the top.
The the hawk changed direction slightly and I had a better head angle plus a great view of its eye as each stroke of its wings lifted it higher into the sky.
I am very fond of Ferruginous Hawks and love to say the word “ferruginous” because it rolls off of my tongue. Ferruginous means reddish brown or rusty colored and one look at this birds can make a person see why it was named the Ferruginous Hawk because of the colors in its plumage, especially on its legs and coverts.
As the bird gained altitude the upper peaks of the Stansbury mountains came into view behind the bird and even though it is June the peaks are still mostly covered in snow.
I kept firing away as the Ferruginous Hawk climbed higher and closer with every stroke of its wings and I was really, really grateful to have the hawk in my viewfinder and in focus for so long.
Right after this photo was taken I lost track of the hawk for a second because I needed to move my lens on my photo noodle and the next thing I knew the bird was so close I could no longer focus on it. It continued flying towards the east and I lost sight of it.
In my post on the Green-tailed Towhee from two days ago I mentioned that one good bird could make my day when it comes to photographing birds and yesterday that bird was this Ferruginous Hawk.
Life is good.