Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Animorph Hawks (Hawks! Hawks! Hawks!)

You remember those Animorph books? Yeah, I don't really either. I don't think I read any of them, in fact few people did; they just had compelling covers what with the transitional morphing illustration and all. I think they were offered up as prizes for good behavior in 2nd grade (definitely never read them then). The hawk kid was named Tobias as I recall, the name of a champion. 

Anyway, what's actually much cooler, and also real, are variegated hawk morphs. These guys are worth more than a quick 10 minute read at the dentist office. Y'all may remember this dark morph Ferruginous Hawk from a few weeks past, one of the more stoic and brooding morphs into which one might run out amongst the alfalfa fields. 

Now I'd like to introduce an ambitious morph on the other side of the Ferruginous spectrum, from the other side of the force, as it were. Whereas bird number 1 was born unto the dark side, our bold and brash protagonist below belongs to the "light."

Not that one can tell from these photos, but this fellow was a bit  under-grown for the 23'' one expects of a Ferruginous Hawk. It's ok though; he's a prime example of Sibley's immature 'light morph' and still has some bulking up (and some oxidizing) to do.

Taking crisp, unobstructed views of birds lifting off is so mainstream and reinforces unrealistic standards of beauty and skill both for birds and bird photographers--much like Barbie dolls and He-Man do for doe-eyed young people. Yeah, let's cut off the wings and get some high voltage wires running perpendicular to unnatural looking beams in the shot. Andy Warwho?

The light morph Ferruginous may have been an immature bird, but he still exerted enough dominance to see off this dark morph Red-Tail. So much morphing...I cannot wait until all the multifarious Swainson's Hawks start cycling through.

Why are raptors so variable? Are the variations just that much more visible on bigger birds? There are plenty of passerines and other birds with subspecies and plumage variation by region, but it's like almost all hawks have alternate morphs. And even though there are many morphs, the morph types are predominantly consistent (like light morph Ferruginous Hawks all still look very similar).

It's ok to geek out about it. You're not alone, and might not even be the extreme:
Video courtesy of Tommy DeBardeleben

Err hem...well then, interesting stuff. Below the morphing hawks in the troposphere, as well as the food chain, were some of the more variable waterfowl--Snow and Canada Geese with a couple of Ross's mixed in (not really visible in this photo).

These photos were all taken while I was out searching for Sprague's Pipit. The site where one such bird was found three weeks ago had been recently plowed, which meant I was out of luck some more again and always. Screw that bird. Hawks only.