On the Road and In Your Backyard

On The Road and In Your Backyard is a weekday feature spotlighting reader submissions. From the exotic to the familiar, please share your part of the world, whether you’re traveling or just in your locality. Share some photos and a narrative, let us see through your pictures and words. We’re so lucky each and every day to see and appreciate the world around us!

Submissions from commenters are welcome at tools.balloon-juice.com


Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


What a wonderful way to start out the week, and it’s only going to get better!

Today, pictures from valued commenter Albatrossity.

These are not pics from when I was on the road, but rather pics of birds that visit my part of the country for the fall or winter. All are hawks that I have seen and photographed within a few miles of my house in 2018. Some have probably traveled a great distance to see me, and I appreciate their annual visitations.

Taken on 2018-08-29 00:00:00

Manhattan, KS

This fish-eating hawk does not breed in Kansas, but is a regular spring and fall visitor, occasionally lingering into the winter in mild years.

Taken on 2018-12-05 00:00:00

Manhattan, KS

Merlins are smallish falcons who migrate into the state in early fall and back home to their more northern breeding sites in early spring. They are fast and wary, and I felt extremely fortunate to get a flight shot of this one.

Taken on 2018-10-12 00:00:00

Stafford, KS

This young peregrine falcon had just sat through a rain shower and was looking kinda grumpy and bedraggled. Peregrines did not historically breed in Kansas, since they require rocky cliffs and outcrops and there are precious few of those here. But now there are breeding pairs on tall buildings in Topeka, Wichita and Kansas City. Still, most peregrines sighted in the state are passage birds in spring and fall, as they follow the duck and shorebird flocks to Texas and back.

Taken on 2018-11-21 00:00:00

Manhattan, KS

Harlan’s Hawk is a subspecies of the common North American raptor, the Red-tailed Hawk. This subspecies breeds in Alaska and the Yukon, and has many variable plumages. This all-dark form is the rarest of all of them, and is also know by another name, the Black Warrior, which was given to it by none other than John James Audubon. These birds appear in the plains in October and head back north in April. They might just be my favorite red-tail variation!

Taken on 2018-10-08 00:00:00

Manhattan, KS

Krider’s Hawk is another subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk, on the other end of the darkness spectrum from Harlan’s. This juvenile shows the white-headed and white-tailed look of the subspecies, and I hope it comes back next year as a full adult, which is an even more striking plumage. Krider’s breeding range is in the southern parts of the Canadian Prairie Provinces down into western Nebraska and western Minnesota; they winter on the Great Plains and further south into Texas and Louisiana. This is the most uncommon of all the subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk.


Thank you so much Albatrossity, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

22 replies
  1. 1
    Raven says:


  2. 2
    Amir Khalid says:

    Magnificent creatures.

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    @Amir Khalid: Magnificent creatures in someone else’s yard. When little six pound Nona is over, I have to watch her like a hawk so the actual creatures won’t capture her.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    satby says:

    These are great Albatrossity! Thank you for sharing them.

  6. 6

    Outstanding shots. Gears? Lens?

  7. 7
    biff murphy says:

    Thanksyou for the great pics! The fish-eating hawks also known as the Osprey are a favorite of mine to see in the summer in eastern ma.

  8. 8
    Alternative Fax, a hip hop artist from Idaho says:

    Gorgeous, and thanks for sharing them with us. I’m always happy to see one of our neighborhood red tails come by. The first one I named Henry until a toddler showed up on our driveway and she was renamed Henrietta. I named the youngster Hank Jr and his I see him(?) more often now. He’s a good bit larger, so I’m making another assumption.

    Did I thank you for the stunning flight shots?

  9. 9
    debbie says:

    Awesome wingspan in that first photo!

  10. 10
    Wag says:

    Great photos! Fast camera and a long lens with a steady hand= quality pictures. Thanks for sharing!

  11. 11
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    These are wonderful and help tremendously with identifying some raptors in the woods around my house in suburban DC Montgomery County. Thank you so much. The woods are between my development and the interstate and a Metro Stop and are large enough to support a diverse ecosystem of vultures, crows, hawks, foxes, rabbits, groundhogs, and deer.

    Between the interstate, the local grocery store/McDonald’s Dumpster, the woods offer fine dining at its easiest. I’ve noticed some raptors whose wings are too short to be vultures, but they have the dark body/light head combination of a vulture. So maybe they are varieties of Red-Tailed Hawk.

  12. 12
    CCL says:

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  13. 13
    arrieve says:

    Wonderful as always. I’m in awe of the pictures of birds in flight. I can just about manage to get decent pictures of birds sitting on a branch, but have never gotten great shots of them in the air. You are a master.

  14. 14
    Another Scott says:

    @Cheryl from Maryland: I saw a young bald eagle in a neighbor’s tree a couple of years ago – it looked superficially very much like the last picture – speckled feathers on its chest. It was surprising to me how different it looked from the usual adult.

    Respect to those folks who can ID boids no matter what their ages!

    Thanks for the pictures, Albatrossity. Beautiful as always.


  15. 15
    Albatrossity says:

    Thanks, all

    @JPL: There really aren’t any raptors in North America that could haul off a 6 lb mammal. Most of these birds weigh, at most, 4 lb, and most of them can haul off something that weighs, at most, half their weight. Now, a desperate hawk might TRY to do that, and it could do some damage, but that would be a very very rare occurrence. Small puppies and kittens are certainly prey items in some instances. But a 6 lb mammal is not in any real danger from a hawk anywhere in North America. You can relax!

  16. 16
    Betty says:

    Beautiful. So nice to read about the various subspecies.

  17. 17
    Mary G says:

    Love these as always. So cool that the peregrins are adapting to breeding on buildings.

  18. 18
    TomatoQueen says:

    So lovely to see the full wing spans and plumage on top. I’m used to watching peregines and bald eagles via nest cams, which is wonderful but you tend not to see the whole bird in flight. I’ve never seen Merlinus before, what a beauty.

  19. 19
    stinger says:

    Albatrossity, I believe these birds fly so far specifically to pose for their portraits. These pics are amazing! How do you shoot these raptors from above??

  20. 20
    Origuy says:

    I love to watch raptors in flight and your pictures are amazing. There is a pair that flies around Interstate 280 near Palo Alto, I would see them on my way to work when I worked there. Now I see shorebirds on the SF Bay.

    Peregrines have been nesting on the San Jose City Hall since it was built. They have a webcam on them operated by the UC Santa Cruz and a Facebook page. This year there are three eggs so far. It will be fun watching when they hatch.

  21. 21
    Mohagan says:

    What great pictures and knowledgeable comments to go along with them. Here in N CA I’m used to just the common RTH, so it is great to see the variants.

  22. 22
    Albatrossity says:

    @HeartlandLiberal: Gear for all these shots was an Olympus OM-E-M1MarkII body coupled with a Leica 100-400mm zoom lens. Since that camera is a crop-sensor body, the lens is effectively 200-800mm.

    @stinger: I don’t actually shoot them from above; but they often bank to turn and look at me, and then you can get a good view of the back, etc.

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