A couple days before Christmas, while my brother and I were out photographing birds and wildlife in Cherry Creek, I came across a hawk I didn’t immediately recognize. Cherry Creek is packed full of Red Tailed hawks, of every variety (and there are a LOT of varieties of red-tailed hawks), many of which are juvenile. Juvi hawks often look considerably different than the adult forms, sometimes looking like entirely different species. At first, I though this was a juvenile red tail, of a morph I had never seen before. Once I got a little closer, however, I realized it was most definitely not a red-tailed hawk…the tail was much different, and the dark underbelly indicated a distinct species. In this case, a Rough-Legged Hawk.
Truly beautiful birds, they look a little bland at first…until they spread their wings wide and land on a treetop right in front of you! This stunning bird had it’s eye on me the moment I got out of the car. For a while, it was content to just inspect me from afar, but once I started heading farther out into the field to get a better angle on the light, it decided to give me a closer inspection. It flew, in a semicircle, around me from treetop to treetop, scoping me out and figuring out if I was a threat. Along the way, it presented me with the most exquisite moments of a raptor I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of photographing. The first and fourth shots in this sequence are my all-time favorite bird photos that I have personally ever taken. I wing detail on these majestic birds is simply beautiful, as are the subtle gradients of color in the dark band across the belly.