ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK near Big Lake (Apache Co.)
26 Dec 2017, 11:34 PM,
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK near Big Lake (Apache Co.)

This afternoon my dad and I spotted this ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK perched along Hwy. 261 north of Big Lake (Apache County) before it took off flying and hover-hunting over the grasslands, allowing some blurrier but diagnostic flight shots through the windshield. This was in the same area we saw one back in Nov. 2013. Here is the link to my eBird list that you can see the mapped location from, plus photos of the bird:

Becker Lake in Springerville was completely unfrozen and had a female RED-BREASTED MERGANSER among ~900 other waterfowl species. Big Lake was still ~75% open water and had a couple hundred ducks of common species. Sunrise Lake was 95% frozen and had no water birds present at midday. We tried at Sunrise Campground, Sunrise Ski Area, and Sheep Crossing for gray jays and pine grosbeaks, but dipped on these and had very few birds overall in the forest despite the lack of snow cover. 

Mid-afternoon at Big Lake at ~9,000 ft elevation it was 55 degrees F, which is so bizarre for late December! Historically this area would be under feet of snow and all the roads south and east of the ski area closed for the winter, but currently there are no road closures. There were only small remnants of snow (read: barely any) across the White Mountains from a storm a week or so ago, but as many of you know we are way behind in winter precipitation already and the projections continue to show a dry, warm winter. I believe the Apache tribe is creating snow artificially for the runs to keep the ski area open for the season. It's going to be a bad and probably early fire season this spring and summer. 

Good birding,

Eric Hough
Wickenburg, AZ

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