Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Rough-legged Hawk - 13 Dec 2013

After lunch in Rudyard I returned down Center Rd. to look for the Snowy Owl that was on the pole next to M-48 and I-75.  The bird was now a quarter mile north along the expressway atop a spruce tree quietly resting.  Too far to walk, I continued on M-48 toward the Soo Area.  I was hoping to pick up some additional birds like Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Shrike, but would find the afternoon drive completely void of birds.  M-48, M-129, and Riverside Drive from 16-Mile Rd. to 3-Mile Rd. had zero birds. The Dunbar Forest had a single Bald Eagle, while the St. Mary's River had no ducks in front of the power plant.

I gassed up and got a room at the Best Western, and decided to try one more quick drive down Riverside between the hours of 3 - 5 pm.  I managed to find a Ruffed Grouse at 16-Mile Rd. and a Northern Shrike at 8-Mile and Lower Hay Lake Rd., and that was it. Darkness was setting in and it was time to call it a night.

I had planned to drive to Whitefish Point in the morning, but forecasts called for 8" of snow and single-digit temperatures overnight, so I decided to head back south along the east side of the State.  Crossing the bridge shortly before 8 am I headed south on US-23 from Cheboygan toward Alpena and Tawass City.  Lake Huron was mostly open from Alpena northward, but freezing quickly.  I scanned several roadside parks looking for ducks and Snowy Owls, but without luck.

Just south of Alpena, in the area of the 'flats' just south of town, I spotted a hovering raptor and immediately suspected Rough-legged Hawk.  I managed a single flight shot of the light-phased bird (juvenile) as it flew past, and for the next half hour chased it up and down the road trying to get some pics of it.  At one point it caught a vole and flew to a tree to eat it.  I managed a couple of poor digiscoped images from 200' away, but passing traffic, heat shimmer, and sub-zero wind chills made for miserable digiscoping.  I got this poor video clip of the bird before it flew off.

I stopped at Tawass State Park and made a quick drive through.  A Bald Eagle was the only notable bird seen.

Next stop was Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.  I managed to find a dark-phased Rough-legged Hawk at the entrance to the wildlife driving tour, but that was it.  Hundreds of Canada Geese were in the fields but no Snow Geese or Greater White-fronted Geese could be found.

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