Michael John Balog | A Hawk Arrives in the Wind River Canyon

A Hawk Arrives in the Wind River Canyon

February 10, 2018

     One early morning, not too long ago, while watching the stock-market do its morning dance from my bedroom in the Wind River Canyon, I spotted a raptor arced in-flight.  The white from under its large wings easily visible against the dark-green pines.  As the hawk curled its flight pattern it landed on a man-made perch; an electric pole.  He was at least a quarter of a mile away from my cabin. 

     When you live in the mountains it's best to keep a pair of binoculars near every window, and I grabbed the ancient-monster pair of 10 by 50's on the speaker.  He was a long way away, but it was definitely not a Red-tailed Hawk; this one seemed bigger.  I didn't recognize the species of this raptor, but it was now hunting in our stretch of the canyon.  

     Over the next week I spotted this raptor several times a day here in the Wind River Canyon, but seldom did it come hunting close enough for my meager lens.  At the moment I'm still shopping for an affordable lens with a long reach, so I loaded up the best thing I have available; an L-series 70-200mm Canon with a 1.4 III extender.  It doesn't have the reach but it does have great sharpness....it'll have to do I told myself.

     I had a handful of photographic opportunities over the week of it's presence here, but identifying the species of this hawk turned out to be as difficult as photographing him.  I had several great shots in which to i.d. this raptor; it was a late-stage juvenile, Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus).   Wyoming, Wind River Canyon, Rough-legged HawkRough-legged Hawk, Wind River CanyonRough-legged Hawk photographed in the Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming.      This particular image is one that illustrates how raptors have adapted.  It's more interesting than the usual in-flight photo, which I also took during his time here in the canyon.  This is a large bird with a wingspan over 4 and a half feet!  It seemingly hovers when hunting the voles that live all through the canyon.  This hawk showed almost as much patience hunting for his food as I did hunting for a picture.

     About a week of observing this raptor hunting our area of the Wind River Canyon and I noted one afternoon this hawk had moved on.  No raptor has ever stayed and hunted this stretch of the canyon for very long; it's not for lack of small game, that's for sure!  It seems to me that if you can fly on such wings, you should travel far.

     As a side-note....early this week, from this same window, I watched a female Bighorn Sheep moseying down the Wind River, eating and drinking along her way as she moved north in the Wind River Canyon.

     This Wind River Canyon Blog is produced by Michael John Balog and all rights are reserved, as are all of the wildlife photographs & true wildlife stories on my website-----HogbatsPhotography.com

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