Sunday, January 20, 2013

Raptors - West Warren, Utah

Identifying hawks has not been one of my strengths in the past.  At first they all look the same.  But over the past couple of years I've learned to positively identify the Northern Harrier seen everywhere I go birding, as well as the Sharp-Shinned Hawk that hangs out around my bird feeders.  And, of course, the distinctive little kestrel. So when I headed to West Warren yesterday, I was hoping to see and identify a few new (to me) hawks.  I was in luck.

Not many people even know where West Warren is.  Because I grew up in Ogden, I had actually been there a time or two.  Really, you just take 12th Street from Ogden and go west until you arrive at Little Mountain and can't go any further.  This is about where the Ogden River finds its way to the Great Salt Lake.  It's fenced farmland the whole way, mostly range land really, for cattle and horses.  Lots of flat fields.  There is a wildlife management area out there and I tried to find it, but I found the approach was snow-covered dirt roads.  I knew better than to try to tackle that with my Altima.  I contented myself with staying on 12th Street, and I wasn't disappointed.

I was sure to see Bald Eagles - which I did.   My best photo though, turned out to be this young one in a tree near the road.  I thought at first it was a Golden Eagle, but examining my photos later the ID was unmistakable.

The hawk I saw the greatest number of was this Rough-Legged Hawk.  From a distance, he looks like he's wearing a tuxedo jacket and the head seems darker. The white bib is very distinct
 Here is one hanging out in a tree with the other hawk I identified today, the Red-Tailed Hawk.
 I stopped off at Farmington Bay on the way home, hoping to see owls, and I did see more Rough-Legged hawks there.  But no owls. 
Here is a Red-Tailed Hawk that was kind enough to pose right by the road.  You can tell how rural the West Warren area is by the old wooden telephone poles.  I saw two or three Red-Tailed this day.
 Back at Farmington Bay, I decided to check out a small clump of trees where I had seen pheasants on my last visit, but had not been quick enough to photograph them.  This time I pulled up quietly and parked and waited.  Would you believe, they were there.  Two pair.  This male crossed the road and I got photos through my dirty windshield (so not great).  The other male was in the tree and the females were huddled underneath the tree and hard to see.  I was tickled for these bonus shots.

And the end of the day, looking directly into the sun through the dense haze at Farmington Bay, no mountains visible.  You can see the man-made Great Blue Heron's nests in the distance here.  I walked about a mile on icy, snow-packed roads here.  I was dressed for it and had good boots on.  But with temps at about 18 F, even bundled up, it was a relief to get back to my car.
Today, I'm visiting my sister in Plain City which is right next to West Warren.  While out there, I'm going to try harder to see owls.  I saw one Barn Owl yesterday, but wasn't quick enough to catch him in flight.  They are being forced to hunt by day because of the deep snow and difficulty finding food.  Some are starving.  There's more than one good reason to wish we'd get out of this deep freeze and the snow would starting melting.  We need a January thaw.


troutbirder said...

Oh my. Bekkie the probirder and photographer. I'm jealous. I've never seen a Barn Owl, roughlegs are somewhat unusual here as the alternate big hawk, and pheasants which I used to shoot by the ton (in a manner of speaking) are almost extinct now due to tiling all the slought and tearing out all the fence line. Our farms with their GPS guided half million dollars maching prefer to go in a straight line a mile or two before they turn around in their ethanol field.... I mean cornfields.. We now have lots of wild turkey though... Oops I got carried away. Sorry!

Bekkieann said...

Haha, I understand. What a shame. But turkeys are nice, too. They are pretty common here as well.

I'm still struggling with ID'ing hawks. I find it a lot to keep in my head, but I'm learning.