December 9, 2018 – Perched on a steel cable above a grassy area a Rough-legged hawk, a large raptor of the high arctic during the summer, keeps an eye out below for prey. The photo shows the feathers covering the legs, extending down to their small feet. The tip of the beak is stained red from a recent kill. The Rough-legged hawks have migrated south out the Arctic and are now on their wintering grounds. The wintering ground of the Rough-legged hawk includes most of the United States, minus the states south of the Ohio river and East of the Mississippi. According to The Cornell lab of Ornithology these wintering hawks feed mostly on voles, mice and shews while in our area of Illinois. I have personally witnessed them on the carrion of a rather large mammal a few winters back. With a wingspan of over 4′ they can’t be missed as they hover and glide over the farm fields and prairies. Watch for them perched on utility poles or on the small branches of trees or even sitting on the ground throughout the winter months.
November 5, 2018 – A close up look at those wonderful features of a wild tom turkey photographed in Kankakee county recently. In the photo, the snood is relaxed and drooping down across the top of the bill from just below the forehead, but at anytime that fleshy growth can be drawn in to stand straight up. Hanging from the neck of this celebrated bird is the dewlap, a flap of skin which loosely hangs down from below the chin continuing down the neck. The red fleshy bumps across the back and sides of the head are the minor caruncles. Down below the dewlap are major caruncles that will impress the hens during the spring mating season. The colors of these fleshy areas on the turkeys’ head and neck can change from bright red to all blue or white, depending on the birds’ stress levels. “Wild turkey gobblers have the ability to relax and contract small blood vessels in the skin of the head and neck causing changes in the color of the skin”, according Bob Eriksen a biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation. Also noted by Eriksen was that the “blood vessels and muscles also control the lengthening and contractions of the snood.”