by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"The Long Way Home"

Northern Harrier

northern harrier
        We were driving the long way home, and found ourselves on the canal road at the south end of the Washington Fields. My favorite drive is through the fields because there are always surprises that seem to happen. This drive was no exception. A large raptor was sitting on the rafter of an old hay barn next to the road. Seldom do you get so close to a large hawk. This was a great opportunity to take a picture, and I just happened to have my camera. We stopped, and as I opened the door to climb out, the Northern Harrier turned his head to look at me.

        Zippppppppp! A ground squirrel came out of a bush next to the hay barn. He went over several piles of rubble covering 30 feet in the time it would take you to blink your eye, and then he was gone. Boy was that squirrel fast! A turn of the raptor’s head was the opportunity the ground squirrel had been waiting for. A moment of distraction by the Northern Harrier, and the squirrel made his break for freedom. We had disturbed the hawk and deprived him of his dinner. I’m sure as he soared off his perch and went back to cruising over the fields looking for another tasty morsel that he was grumbling about those ‘inconsiderate humans’.

        Northern Harriers are one of man’s best friends. This long-winged, long-tailed hawk forages by flying low above the ground looking for small rodents. They are birds of open grassland and marshes. We’re fortunate to see them in southern Utah. If you see a large hawk with a white patch at the base of his tail feathers you are probably looking at a Northern Harrier (earlier days they were called Marsh Hawks).

       Take a trip through the Washington Fields and see if you don’t find a surprise waiting to happen. The Northern Harrier is painted with color pencils by Marilyn Davis . If you have questions about hawks, birds, or Red Cliffs Audubon activities, call 435 673-0996.

Red Cliffs Audubon