Raptor Wednesday

Buteo lagopusThis was my winter of the Rough-legged Hawks (Buteo lagopus). I’d never seen these tundra-evolved raptors before, but the good, cold, blistering winds from the north brought them down to the coast of Long Island, possibly in larger numbers than usual, where they searched for grasslands similar to their northern habitat. Floyd Bennett Field. In two of three trips specifically to see these birds, I was graced with several views. The last time I was there, there were at least two of the light morphs (they also come in a dark morph).

They hunt like Kestrels, hovering over the ground as they face the wind and beat their wings to say in place. There was a female Kestrel there as well, much smaller, of course, which made the comparison in the wing. In addition, there were a couple of Red-tailed Hawks and at least one Coopers. At nearby Marine Park, a Peregrine and Northern Harrier (another species that hunts over grasslands and dunes) were seen at the sunset. There was a mystery bird in the distance that may have been a young Red-shouldered Hawk, but opinions differed here. So six or seven species of diurnal raptor, all in Brooklyn, within a few miles of each other.

A few minutes after sunset, a Short-eared Owl flew 360 degrees around us.

There has been some grumbling about the winter. Yes, we can all celebrate the thaw and spring’s arrival now. But winter has its glories, which may be even more glorious for the discomfort experienced while attaining them.

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