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Monday, December 25, 2006

Post-blizzard Birding

Even though our big pre-Christmas blizzard ended about 5 days ago, getting around anywhere except for main roads still requires 4wd and decent clearance. We ended up with about two feet of snow at our house, and some areas in the region reached the three foot mark. Can't just sit around forever, though, so I decided now that the family visits are wrapped up it was time to take advantage of the sunny, crisp weather to see what's about. I bopped around eastern Boulder and Western Weld counties this afternoon- here are a few highlights.

Ferruginous Hawks- these aren't called Buteo regalis for nothing- indeed they are regal. The first one is a juvenile (by the pale iris & lack of reddish "leggings"). Compare it with the second bird, an adult taking off. Check out the size of the bill and gape (fleshy corner of the mouth under the eye)- these guys can gulp big prey. Although uncommon (probably less than 8,000 breeding pairs in the US & Canada), we get fair numbers in the winter hanging out around prairie dog towns.

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawks- Certainly my favorite form of 'tail. Ironic that they don't really get red tails (well, some adults get a bit of red on the base of the tail), but goes to show how variable this species is. Unlike most Red-tailed Hawk subspecies, dark colored birds prevail within Harlan's. These birds come a long way to winter here, breeding in Alaska, Yukon Territory, and N. British Columbia. Here's a juvenile (pale iris) and an adult (dark iris) I've seen of late.

Red-tailed Hawk (juvenile light-morph western)- Pretty common around here year-round, but this was an uncommonly good pose to get as it took off:

OK, don't get the idea I only do raptors all of the time. I also stopped and watched a group of Song and White-crowned Sparrows that had found a blown-off bare patch of ground to forage on. Luckily for me, it was close to a quiet back road that I could stop on, driver's side on the left shoulder so I could shoot out of my window.

Song Sparrows-

White-crowned Sparrows-

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