Once again I embarked on my annual New Year trip to just outside of Panguitch, UT to see the raptors that congregate in that area each winter. I try to make it on New Year's Day, however, some really cold weather kept me at home tending to some frozen pipes on January 1 this year, so I had to put off my outing until the 4th. Yeah, it was a few days late, but the birds were still there.
Great photo ops, as I've learned in past years, are few and far between as the photo above illustrates. This is a pair of Bald Eagles perched in a Cottonwood about 300 yards from the road. The immature stands out, but you may have to look a little harder on the left side for the adult. The vast majority of the raptors I see require binoculars or, in some cases, a spotting scope to really get a decent look. I never expect to do more than look for the birds, see how many I can find, and if I come home with a great photo or two (not this year . . . ), so much the better.
This is one of 12 Bald Eagles I saw, and by far the closest look I had at one, though still out of reach for a 400mm lens for a good close-up.
Perched on a very un-photogenic utility pole was this beautiful Golden Eagle and, surprisingly, only about 200 or 300 feet from the Bald Eagle pictured above. A say "surprisingly" because I never thought the two species would be that tolerant of each other. It was one of two Goldens I saw on the day.
If Belted Kingfishers are a "nemesis bird" for me in making a good photo, Rough-legged Hawks are right there with them (the hawk may be a little more of a nemesis, actually). And I really thought this one was going to put an end to the hex, but it was not too be. This hawk was perched beautifully in great light on a fence post next to the road as I slowly approached, camera in my lap, and GONE as soon as I came to a full stop and reaching for the camera. Oh well, at least this shot gives a nice view of the underwing pattern of a Rough-legged for ID purposes.
This is one that had me a perplexed at first because I thought I was seeing some rusty color there that would be indicative of a Ferruginous Hawk, but after looking over the photo and comparing it to the field guides, have decided it is another Rough-legged - saw a total of six of them and just one Ferruginous for the day (which is a little lower than past years). A lot of the birds do like to perch on these center-pivot irrigation systems found on many ranches in this area. I saw one that had three Bald Eagles and eight or nine Common Ravens roosting on it. A couple of species I'd seen in past years I missed this time were Prairie Falcon and American Kestrel. Odd with the kestrel, actually, because there fairly common most days around there and I had seen a couple in the area just a few days before.
I saw some other wildlife in addition to the raptors - this is one of a pair of yearling Mule Deer roaming the ranch lands together . . .
. . . and on the way home found a nice herd of more than 40 Pronghorn along the highway.
Happy New Year and see you next month!