Rough-legged Hawk flight

Before last night's Dovekie report, I had zero intention of birding today given the brutally windy and cold forecast. Instead, I found myself outdoors from dawn to dusk. No Dovekies to be seen today unfortunately, but it was an incredibly rewarding day in the field. Despite the weather I had an outstanding time freezing my ass off.

Today's highlight was an afternoon full of Rough-legged Hawks. I had not yet seen any Roughies in 2008, but that changed today with a total of 5 birds, certainly my highest single-day total in CT!

The Great Meadows Marsh (Stratford) held 3 birds in the early afternoon, two light morphs and a dark morph, hunting between the airport and Long Beach.

dark morph Roughie in Stratford

one of two light RLHA in Stratford

On my way home I stopped at Grassy Hill in Orange with hopes of picking up one for my town list. During last year's local CBC, I had to leave an hour or two early to do stuff around the house...and Lee Schlesinger turned up a dark morph Roughie hunting over Grassy Hill while I was home doing yardwork. I mentioned to him on Saturday that it still hurt a year later to miss that bird in Orange! Well, this afternoon upon pulling up to the very same field, lo and behold a buteo was hovering down the slope...a dark Rough-leg.

dark morph Rough-leg in nice

I pulled out the scope and watched this bird as it hunted for several minutes before perching in the trees bordering the field.

While watching it through the scope, the bird was pushed off its perch by another buteo...this one a light Rough-leg! The two flew together for a minute before the dark bird peeled off and left the field to the light bird.

The two Orange RLHA together: the dark bird over the light one

This second Roughie proceeded to hunt until sunset, when I could no longer feel my hands and decided to head home.

light morph Rough-leg in Orange

My views of these hawks in the evening light were absolutely stunning. If I had a real camera I could have gotten some incredible images. The beauty of this spot is that you can position yourself in the middle of the field and just stand there as the raptors hunt around you. If any photographers out there could use some RLHA photos, this would be the place if either of those birds decide to stick around for a while. I've now recorded 14 species of raptor/vulture from this hillside.

Grassy Hill in Orange, as seen from the end of Skyview Road. The field, now mostly dirt and dirt piles, still has tall grass and weeds at its east end. Walking forward from here, the field slopes downward to Route 34. The view from here to the north is fantastic. Sadly, this field is on its way to being developed.

- Nick


  1. This field sometimes has Red-Shouldered Hawks, but a Rough-Leg is really nice. Glad to hear Lee still birds around Orange. That field used to be pretty reliable for pipits, Snow Buntings, and the occasional odd goose. Maybe the real estate market will slow down development a little.


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