Monday, September 30, 2013

A Morning Up Close with a Swainson's

A pair of Mississippi Kites chose to breed in a rural neighborhood area in the summer of 2013.  This area is a very rare occasion to see this species in, and it was in the Chino Valley north of Prescott.  While they were discovered and all of Prescott's birders were able to see this Mississippi Kite pair and they young they hatched, I was sitting in Phoenix...broke.  I haven't seen Mississippi Kite much at all, two times in my life to be exact..with the most recent being in June of 2010.  Well, one of the Mississippi Kites decided to stay longer than usual, as a group of Yavapai County birders came and saw the bird in the same place as it was being seen during their breeding duration.  I saw the report and came up to Chino Springs in hopes of finding one after I thought I missed my chance.  Spoiler alert, well...I drove up and missed the Kite after nearly three hours of searching for it.  Maybe it did head south as it should have by now, or maybe I just missed it.  Despite the disappointing miss, I surprisingly did have something that made my search very enjoyable.  In fact, it was awesome.  It came in the form of a raptor.  Speaking of raptors, I saw plenty of other raptors that seemed like everything else besides the Mississippi Kite.  Every medium-sized raptor made me jump, but after awhile, I got used to the Kite not being around.

The sun was in my eyes as I arrived, and I noticed a raptor flying in my direction as I was looking into the sun.  It wasn't my wanted Kite, but it is probably one of the best looking hawks in North America.  It almost seemed like this raptor knew my situation, and this was his way of saying good morning.  And he made an epic appearance...

This is a Swainson's Hawk.  While I walked around the fields and neighborhoods of Chino Valley looking for the Kite, there were at least four of these handsome raptors, and they really made it a fun morning.  But one of them was particularly cooperative.  At first, he soared up high and flew around for awhile.  Chino Valley was cold at first, but once it warmed up as the sun rose, the Swainson's wanted to have a taste of the warmth. 

After getting in a tussle with another Swainson's Hawk, he decided to come in for a landing after an unsuccessful attempt at a small critter he was preying on in the field.  His landing happened to be pretty close to me!

I was amazed at the sight of the hawk!  So close!  We decided to have a staring contest....

Over the next ten minutes, I probably snapped 100 photographs of the Swainson's Hawk, who didn't even care that I was 20 feet away...

Studly raptor huh?  I think so!  Swainson's Hawks are a variable raptor, having three distinct color morphs.  This one appears to be the intermediate morph.  When the hawk and I parted ways, it left me with the best looks I've had of this species up close!

Besides the Swainson's Hawk, here are a few other birds that were present in the Chino Valley.

Vesper Sparrow

Cassin's Kingbird

And non-bird-wise, here's a few Pronghorn Antelope


  1. Great encounter and some great photos! Those moments do not present themselves very frequently. Wish I could have been there to enjoy the moment as well. Congrats.

    1. Thanks Gordon! It was a very fun experience! The Chino Valley has some of the best raptor viewing opportunities I have ever seen in Arizona, raptors are everywhere there! You'll have to come and bird Prescott with me sometime, I think you'd really enjoy it!