Flight of the Northern Harrier
Circus cyaneus
November 9, 2010

The northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a lanky hawk (long, thin wings, long body, and a long tail) that hunts by sound as well as by sight.

Today, I thought I'd give a photographic impression of what it is to watch a hawk migrating (by Jo Hayes Vista). In the distance, any hawk first appears as a speck. Of course, with binoculars or a camera lens, one has a preview of any approaching raptor. Still, it can be a while before a hawk is clearly identified.

At this time of year, any hawk is most likely a red-tailed hawk. The first clue that the approaching hawk was a harrier was by the deep wingbeat.

Northern harrier in the distance
  As the hawk comes closer, it's apparent that it's a harrier. (And afterward a hawk expert identified it as a female juvenile northern harrier.)
Northern harrier in the distance
Hawks often watch "you" as well as you watching them.
Northern harrier in the distance
  The joy of having a closely approaching hawk.
Northern harrier in the distance
  And suddenly the harrier is at the point of closest approach.
Northern harrier overhead
  A view of the exiting harrier, flying south . . . but how far will this particular harrier go?
Northern harrier exits
  Having a close flyby is always exhilarating and is what a hawk watch, for me, is all about.

Photo note: I used a Pentax K20D, with the Sigma 150-500mm lens, on November 7, 2010, for this sequence.

My Pennsylvania bird list   ||   Early fall hawks, four photos (2008)

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