During the winter, western Colorado is home to many raptors. Some are residents … some just passing through. All are fascinating to watch as they go about their business. The Grand Valley Audubon Society hosts what they refer to as “Tomacanbac” field trips. It’s sort of a play on words … for the field trip actually originates in Grand Junction and goes to Mack, CO and back. 😉
One of the most prominent raptors soaring through the skies in the winter are the bald eagles. On an given day, you can look up and find them at various different ages. One day Tom and I actually visited a local park and found 14 bald eagles! No overlaps either … we could physically see all 14 at the same time! Love it.When we’re not seeing bald eagles, it’s the golden eagle which steal the show. While the balds hang out mostly near the water areas, the golden can be seen perched on top of poles, bluffs, mesas, and of course, soaring in the skies. In south Florida, our main staple raptor was the red-shouldered hawk. Not here … in CO it’s pretty much the red-tailed hawk. They seem to be everywhere.
What a thrill it was to witness an altercation between the golden eagle and a red-tailed hawk, who incidentally was the aggressor. As the golden was soaring by, out of nowhere came the red-tailed hawk, all ready to get up in the golden’s face.As the red-tail got closer, the golden simply turned to get a glance at it.It changed it’s direction slightly, as if to brush the red-tail off a bit, but it was relentless in its pursuit and kept attacking the golden. Eventually, the red-tail hawk and the golden eagle parted ways without too much contact, but it’s always so impressive when the smaller raptor attacks the larger, more powerful one.On the other end of the size spectrum is the American kestrel. It’s also quite common out here, often seen in the farm lands on just about every block. Other hawks such as the ferruginous hawk are a thrill to see.A personal favorite of mine are the northern harriers … especially the males, know as the “gray ghost” for obvious reason, which are easily distinguished from the darker reddish brown females. They say you see females to male in ratios of about 4 to 1, but not on these days … they were seen more like 1 to 3 … males rule!One of the coolest, and most cooperative, sightings during the two trips I attended was this one … it remained a big question as to its identity. Some thought sharp-shinned, while others thought Cooper’s hawk. After our leader sent these in to the experts, it was determined to be a 1st year Cooper’s hawk. What a gorgeous and very tolerant bird.This hawk practically seemed to be working it for the camera … as it it were dropping clues along the way. LOLAnother great sighting was this one … the prairie falcon. To me, it looks a bit like a larger version of the kestrel, with a single eye stripe. Since this day, Tom and I have seen them in various locales … always a thrill to observe and photograph.A bit off subject, we often find these slying about in the overhead skies. Apparently, these guys land at GJ airport, where they re-fuel, and then make their way to Colorado Springs.So, basically you never know what you’re going to find in the overhead skies. Often, it doesn’t even matter if it “should” be there or not. Can anyone remember when Jacksonville, FL had a visit paid by a SNOWY OWL? True story. 🙂
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© 2018 Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography