Rough-legged Hawks are an uncommon species here in the Willamette Valley. They nest in the great tundra of the North, migrating here in October, and leaving by May. So, it's always a big deal to be able see and photograph one. This one is even a little more unusual in that it is a dark morph, instead of the more common light morph.
With a full day of sunshine in the weather forecast, we chose to spend the main part of our day birding despite the temperature continuing to hang in the 30's. The plan was to visit the Luckiamute State Natural Area south unit. It was still cold and the birds were extremely quite at 11:00, but we struck out walking. We spotted several Red-tailed Hawks, which is expected. They out number all other hawks, and possibly all other hawks combined. So, when you see a large raptor soaring, or perched on a power pole or in a tree, your first reaction is to assume that it is a Red-tail. When we spotted this bird in the tree, Jeanette asked "what kind of hawk is that with such a small tail?" I explained to her that Red-tails have short tails as I snapped a photo. When we got home and I downloaded the photos into my laptop I realized to my own pleasure that I was wrong, and after checking some bird guides came to the conclusion it was a Rough-legged Hawk. An additional interesting fact is that our only other sighting of a Rough-legged Hawk at this location was January 14, 2014. Click here to see that image.
We finished our walk with a feeling of success. You can see our checklist here.