Light Morph Ferruginous Hawk in the West Desert

/, Ferruginous Hawks, Stansbury Mountains, Tooele County, Utah, West Desert/Light Morph Ferruginous Hawk in the West Desert

Light morph Ferruginous Hawk on a hillLight morph Ferruginous Hawk on a hill – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Light morph Ferruginous Hawk in front of the Stansbury MountainsLight morph Ferruginous Hawk in front of the Stansbury Mountains – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Ferruginous Hawk lifting off in front of the Stansbury MountainsFerruginous Hawk lifting off in front of the Stansbury Mountains – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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…

Ferruginous Hawk lifting off from a hillFerruginous Hawk lifting off from a hill – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Light morph Ferruginous Hawk and the mountainsLight morph Ferruginous Hawk and the mountains – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Ferruginous Hawk in full flightFerruginous Hawk in full flight – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Adult light morph Ferruginous Hawk in Tooele County, UtahAdult light morph Ferruginous Hawk in Tooele County, Utah – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Ferruginous Hawk in flight in front of snowy Stansbury Mountain peaksFerruginous Hawk in flight in front of snowy Stansbury Mountain peaks – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Snowy Mountains and a Ferruginous HawkSnowy Mountains and a Ferruginous Hawk – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2500, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Eye to eye with a Ferruginous HawkEye to eye with a Ferruginous Hawk – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

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.

Mia

13 Comments

  1. Elephants Child June 3, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    You say feathered legs, or tarsi and I say britches. And squeal (quietly) in excitment.
    WHAT a magnificent bird.

  2. Steve June 3, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    What a gorgeous bird

  3. M. Bruce June 3, 2017 at 11:18 am

    Spectacular series Mia, and a real demonstration of your superb tracking skills.

  4. Patty Chadwick June 3, 2017 at 11:03 am

    Just looking at these images again…WOW!!!

  5. Pepe Forte June 3, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Totally astounding set of pics Mia. Every frame captures the grace and power of the hawk. The intensity reflected in the hawks eyes is fascinating. Great work. Thanks.

  6. Patty Chadwick June 3, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful series of an incredibly beautiful bird!!!

  7. April Olson June 3, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Beautiful series, they are a beautiful bird. On a Trip to Gandy Utah to see a the warm springs and Crystal Ball Cave I was stunned by all the Ferruginous hawks we saw, every tall pole had one sitting on it. I don’t know if they were migrating through or spend the summers in the area. It is a hard bleak environment.

  8. Bob mcphersons June 3, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Beautiful photos, MiA. Setting the gold standard again

  9. Utahbooklover June 3, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Beautiful images of a magnificent hawk; I especially like the first and last images. Thanks!

  10. nikonsteve June 3, 2017 at 8:44 am

    You’ve outdone yourself…..great shots of a spectacular bird ! Thank you

  11. Christine Bogdanowicz June 3, 2017 at 7:46 am

    Fabulous, wonderful–not enough words to describe. Oh how I long for the West when I see these images–thanks for sharing Mia 😉

  12. Rosemary Harris June 3, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Beautiful images.

  13. Glen Fox June 3, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Wonderful series Mia! Gorgeous specimen and very skilled photography.

Comments are closed.