Rough-legged Buzzard, January 2008 Niigata influx last…til now?

 Rough-legged Buzzard. (Fukushimagata, Niigata January 15, 2008)

I got a phone call Friday night from a Japanese friend who told me that two raptors of interest were at Fukushimagata. He translated the names from Japanese to English as a “Grey Harrier” and a “Fur-legged Buzzard”. I was a little confused at to which particular harrier he was referring but I knew he was talking about a “Rough-legged Buzzard” when he mentioned the “Fur-legged Buzzard”. It was fine yesterday so I went looking. I saw several distant harriers and some Buzzards but all were too far for me to identify. It seems that the movement of Rough-legged Buzzards is bit of a mystery at least in Niigata.

I had had a few winter seasons in Niigata and the only buteo I had found was the Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo). In January 2008 however, I found a few Buteo lagopus or Rough-legged Buzzards (Hawks) in both urban areas and wetlands around Niigata City. They remained around the place for a few weeks ...(hmm, almost a month..?) I saw one almost daily near the Niigata Prefectural Office and watched as another circled into the territory for a “look-at-each-other” encounter before departing. I also saw a couple of others at Fukushimagata in the same time frame. I haven’t seen any since so I thought it was an interesting “one-off” phenomenon until now perhaps. I remember it was a very cold period when they were here last and we are being currently warned that we may be in for the coldest December ever. It might be worth keeping an eye out for special visitors in the cold spell.

 Rough-legged Buzzard in flight (Above) compared to Common Buzzard, (Below)

and again, Rough-legged Buzzard below:

As far as my encounters with the Rough-legs, I was impressed by their beautiful pale eyes, broad wings and buoyant hovering in the cold air. I thought they almost moved like butterflies.
 (Above) Rough-legged Buzzard hovering.

 (Above and below) Rough-legged Buzzard near the prefectuaral office. (Pentax K10, 400mm)

(Above) The "prefectural" Rough-leg (at right) meets a passer-by of its own kind for a fly-around that lasted several minutes before the visitor had enough and continued on its way.

(Above and belew) A couple of Common Buzzard pics for comparison.
(Fukushimagata, November 21, 2010)

"Don't come closer!"The Rough-leg near the prefectuaral office on a dull day.

Interesting. The images in this post are a mix from Nikon D300 and Pentax K10 cameras.