Rough-legged Hawk Lift Off At Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

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Rough-legged Hawk lift offRough-legged Hawk lift off – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I spent the first part of my morning yesterday at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Box Elder County. I saw lots of Tundra Swans and photographed some of them while taking off to head to their feeding grounds. I also saw quite a few Great Blue Herons, Northern Harriers, American Coots, Canada Geese, ducks, plus a few Bald Eagles and several Rough-legged Hawks.

With the sun shining and only a few clouds overhead it felt more like late April than early February, we have had an oddly warm winter here in northern Utah. With the snow pack in the mountains far below normal spring runoff this year will likely only be a trickle instead of the flooding we had last spring.

When I left the auto tour route and began to head towards I-15 to go home I saw a Rough-legged Hawk lift off from a sign and dive towards the ground after prey, I quickly turned my Jeep around to get a better light angle and watched as the adult Rough-legged Hawk consumed it. But wouldn’t you know that that a cloud blocked the best sunlight at that time? Things like that happen quite often for bird photographers, the light had been great up until that time. So I photographed the Rough-legged Hawk eating the prey but I wasn’t happy with the light or that the hawk was turned in such a way that I didn’t get much light in its eyes while it tore apart the vole bit by bit until it swallowed the rest of it whole.

After the hawk finished eating the vole I could tell that it was getting ready to lift off from the flats and as it turned I started to fire off a burst of shots and was able to capture this photo. The Rough-legged Hawk’s wings were fully extended above its body while its feet were still firmly planted on the ground and with one downward swoop of its long wings it was airborne right after this was photo was created. I still didn’t care for the lighting conditions when this photo was taken but I enjoyed seeing this dynamic pose and the action that followed.

With our spring-like temperatures the Rough-legged Hawks and other feathered visitors that overwinter here in Northern Utah might not stick around much longer so I hope to take as many photos of them as I can before they head north.

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte February 10, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    Powerful image of a beautiful bird. Thanks Mia.

  2. Patty Chadwick February 8, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Those wings are really long!!! Great shot…

  3. Marty K February 8, 2018 at 8:31 am

    A head-on shot of my favorite bird pose — you made my day! 🙂

  4. Laura Culley February 8, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Just lovely! Seriously lovely! I’m in awe when I see sights like this. Flight is such an outrageous thing, isn’t it?

  5. Liz Cormack February 8, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Wow!! Fantastic shot.

  6. Bob mcpherson February 8, 2018 at 6:54 am

    Cool photo, Mia

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