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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Used to Be the Marsh Hawk

I could show you another eclectic collection of things, but I think I'll show you just one slightly out-of-focus picture. I'm so pleased to have caught it at all, that I have to share. northern harrier

Do you know what it is? Yes, it's a hawk, but which one? Before I tell (of course, you may know), let me tell you some history.

This hawk used to have a different name. I grew up calling it the Marsh Hawk. Somewhere along the line someone decided it should have a more sophisticated name. Taxonomists change names regularly, but they do it for organizational reasons. Common names should just "happen," not be dictated.

Anyway, I saw this hawk a couple of days ago too. I was excited, because it's one of my favorite hawks. Why? Who knows? I saw a lot of them as a child, including one that had flown into a fence and died. Sometimes the sad end of a creature is a great learning opportunity. Actually, I was very callous about death as a child. Animals died in the road all the time. Dad hunted and most of our table meat was dressed in the back yard. It was a farm community. Death was always near at hand. I think the dead Marsh Hawk was the first large bird that I got to examine closely, and I was fascinated.

On Monday, I saw this bird flying low across the field next door. It's smaller than the red-tailed hawk, and behaves differently, so I knew it wasn't my usual hawk friend. It raised its wings and settled into a bush. Out of sight. No chance for a picture. I tried to follow it, but Maggie ranged ahead of me, and scared it off before I could even aim the camera.

I think it had been hunting. It eats small mammals and birds.

This morning, right overhead, three small birds were chasing the hawk. That's pretty common behavior. I got the camera turned on and pointed as fast as I could, but only managed to catch most of the hawk, and not even in focus. Maybe I'll get another chance.

We are now supposed to call this a Northern Harrier. It's Circus hudsonius . The long tail with three stripes, and rounded wings show well in this picture. Some other features, not so well. I think this is a female. I hope it's nesting in my kingdom!

See Red-Tailed Hawk, It Is!


gallerydarrow said...

There is a nesting pair in my neck of the woods. I'm waiting for chiclets, they're beautiful, I love the banded feathers. They fly low tracing the hills where I hike. Thnx for the shot!

Ann said...

I don't know much about hawks but I love watching them. It wasn't until maybe a couple years ago that I started noticing a lot of them in our area.

Casey said...

For a blurry photo, it's still a good catch! It's very hard to get one in focus while flying. I still call them marsh hawks, and get to see them several times as I wait for ducks at the marsh in the fall. Fun to watch them!

Duxbury Ramblers said...

I always find the Hawks wonderful to watch my favourite is the Kestrel.

Sharkbytes said...

gallerydarrow- I don't know your name. Sorry- thanks for the comment. Your blog is beautiful!

Ann- they have really been making a comeback

Casey- nice to know that someone else likes them too.

Carol- the kestrel is special- very special. We see them only occasionally.

Sharkbytes said...

Rochelle! Sorry again. If I had waited till your blog finished loading I would have seen your name. Now I'll know.

Secondary Roads said...

I watched one of these trying to soar in Sunday afternoon's strong wind. He turned left so he was headed into the wind. It was a complete, nearly instantaneous stall. Quicker than a hear beat he continued the turn through 270 degrees so that he was building airspeed again. It was really neat to see this happen.