Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk

Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk

We see many different Hawks in the Calgary area at various times of the year. Rough-legged Hawks in the winter and early part of the spring, go up north for the summer, and then return in the fall. Swainsons Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks migrate from the South later in the spring, and stay until the late fall. In fact many Red-tails stay all year. There are lots of other species of Hawks and raptors as well, but these are the most common. And they usually show up in their most common color patterns.

But every once in awhile we’re lucky enough to see something different. I’ve seen very few Dark or Intermediate Morph birds, and the ones that I have seen have typically flown shortly after I arrived. Of course that’s true for most raptors, but the Light Morphs are far more common and therefore it’s more likely to find one that’s willing to cooperate…

So I was very happy to find this Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk, and even more so when I realized that it was going to help me out. All Hawks are beautiful to me, but there’s something a little extra special about Dark Morphs that makes me want to spend more time with them. Some birders may actually argue that this bird is really an Intermediate Morph, but that’s a pretty subjective decision and there aren’t very many experts out there that will actually take a stand one way or the other unless they actually saw the bird in person. Either way this bird is beautiful to me!

Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk

Dark Morph Swainsons Hawk

Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk

Dark Morph Rough-legged Hawk

According to Sibley, dark morphs make up less than 10% of the population of Rough-legged Hawks found in the west. I don’t recall ever having seen one before, and I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at when I found this one. I was very happy that it posed for me for so long before launching.

This is the first roughie I’ve seen this fall. They pass through the Calgary area every fall and spring during the migration, and in milder years they are even known to overwinter here. Last year was such a nasty, cold winter that we hardly saw any at all. The spring was also very late this year, so when they did finally arrive they they didn’t stick around for long. We’ve been having a very nice (and late) fall so far and I’m very hopeful that we’ll have them here all winter this year!

Red-tailed Hawk Perched on a Bale

Red-tailed Hawk perched on a Bale

I haven’t seen very many hawks lately (mostly my fault for not getting out to look) and so I was happy to find several shortly after I started looking.

It was an extremely windy day and I actually saw several of these beautiful birds perched on bales in the same area as this one. Because of the wind none of them were in any hurry to fly away. Rather they seemed to be very happy to stay perched in a comfortable location.

This one was no different and although it didn’t ignore me, it certainly showed no interest in leaving either.

Beautiful Morning Light

Swainsons Hawk on a Fencepost

I love watching these majestic birds and I’m always happy when they share a few minutes of their time with me! I particularly love it when I get to see them in the soft light of the early morning. Because of the very early sunrise at this time of year, that means getting up very early. Unfortunately that hasn’t worked out very often for me lately, so I have to make the best of those days that I do get out early.

Swainsons Hawk perched on a Fencepost

Swainsons Hawk preparing to launch

Swainson’s Hawk on a Power Pole

I’m always get very excited when I see a perching hawk somewhere close enough to make a nice portrait, and even though I have hundreds of similar images, I always have to stop to try to make another one!

More often than not hawks fly away as soon as they sense that I’m even thinking about pointing my camera at them; however, every once in a while, one will actually cooperate and allow me to take a few shots before it flies. This Swainsons actually sat and watched me very intently from its perch at the top of a power pole for a few minutes (and gave me some very nice poses) before launching…