Sunday, February 19, 2012

Raptors up close

Peregrine falcon
I splurged part of my tax refund on a 400mm zoom and have been itching to try it out for the past week. With a break in the rain, I headed for the Nisqually wildlife refuge this morning. Low tide was at 10:30 a.m., so I figured there would be lots of activity. There wasn't so I think I will stay with my usual visiting time of late afternoon. The few birds I did see were quite far away, so a good test of the new lens.

I misidentified the peregrine as a Cooper's hawk but thought it might be a peregrine because he was so high in the tree. And I always think northern harriers are red-tailed hawks, until I compare my photos with my bird books at home (too heavy to take along).

Northern harrier
Northern harrier close up
Juvenile bald eagle far in the distance

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Raptor rhapsody

I watched a hunting northern harrier for more than an hour today at the wildlife refuge. No surprise why the fighter jet was named for these fast agile raptors. I think this one's a female. Most males have more gray, so I mistook her for a smaller red-tailed hawk.

A pocket guide I've for many years titled "Talons" says that "when in doubt, call it a red-tailed hawk." Juvenile bald eagles can be mistaken for golden eagles or red-tailed hawks, for example, because they change so much during their first 2-3 years.

Harriers have a pretty distinctive flight pattern–low over the ground in search of prey. Kestrels also hunt low to the ground but are much smaller raptors. She found something scurry into an underground burrow, tried to dig it out, then flew off to try another hunting area.

Let me know if you have a favorite anywhere in this blog that you think I should add to my Talons gallery. I'm getting ready to add a few more images. Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.