I was out of state or otherwise preoccupied this year during the peak of fall passerine migration in Utah, but I'm not letting that dampen my birding enthusiasm because another of my favorite birding seasons is quickly approaching. I know that when the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains takes on its fall colors and our Swainson's Hawks and Ospreys leave the state around the end of September/early October it is time to get excited for winter raptors.
Someday (on my buck list) I'm going to make it to one of the popular hawk migration sites, but until then I'll continue to enjoy local hawk migration sites such as Squaw Peak Lookout above Provo, Utah. I joined a small group of Utah County birders September 29th for a hawk watch and thrilled at the sights of all three accipiter species (Northern Goshawk, Cooper's Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk), Red-tailed Hawks, and Golden Eagles making their way southward along the ridges. We enjoyed watching one Cooper's Hawk rise from the trees in the hillside below us, catch a thermal, and soar right before our eyes. The hawk rose slowly and circled in front of and above us as if it wanted to make a lasting impression, which it did. I could see that its crop was full and it was fueled for the next segment of its migration. It rose higher and higher and then ended the gentle looping with a direct flight southward along the ridge.
|Migrating Cooper's Hawk Provo, Utah|
(Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Last November I happened to photograph my first Harlan's Hawk (subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk), without even knowing it at the time, in a location we refer to locally as Point of the Mountain. It was Jerry Liguori, raptor expert and author, who confirmed the Harlan's ID when I shared some images with him. Once Jerry confirmed the ID and I shared the sighting with the local birding community raptor watchers descended upon the location and multiple Harlan's Hawks were observed throughout the winter. Point of the Mountain is a plateau at about 5100' and sits between the borders of Salt Lake and Utah Counties. It is also the location for the Utah State Flight Recreation Area which is used by hang gliders, para gliders, and hunting raptors because of the thermals rising from the hillsides and open fields below.
|Juvenile Harlan's Hawk at Point of the Mountain Lehi, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Light Adult Harlan's' Hawk American Fork, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Light Adult Harlan's Hawk American Fork, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Prairie Falcon Below Traverse Ridge in Lehi, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Adult Prairie Falcon at Utah State Flight Recreation Area Above Point of the Mountain Utah County, Utah|
(Photo by Jeff Cooper)
|Bald Eagle (under overcast sky) at Lindon Marina in Lindon, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Bald Eagle near Panguitch, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Rough-legged Hawk on Antelope Island State Park Causeway Davis County, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|This Merlin made Pleasant Grove, Utah its winter home in 2011 (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Ferruginous Hawk near Beryl Junction, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|
|Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk Having it Meal Pleasant Grove, Utah (Photo by Jeff Cooper)|