Lessons I have learned:
from OBOL birders...
1) If it has a red tail, it is a Red-tailed Hawk, unless it's a Kestrel which this first bird clearly is not, having no face mask. Even though it looked small to me, the red tail means it's a Red-tail. Maybe it was a little male.
2) If it is obviously a big hawk (like the 2nd bird) on top of a tree, it is a Red-tailed Hawk until proven otherwise. They can be very light in front (like the 2nd bird).
Other lessons I have learned:
1) Size and distance can be very difficult to judge.
2) Do not assume the raptor that flew out of sight is the same one you see a little later from a different angle.
3) On a raptor route, if you don't know what it is, try to take a quick snapshot and then continue. Do not agonize over birds that are too far away or too hidden in shrubbery to be easily identified. It will make you rush through the rest of your route and possibly miss raptors.
4) After running this route every winter since January of 2005, I am still learning new stuff.
Now here is my original plea:
Help, please! Usually, I can identify the raptors we see on my Grand Ronde raptor route. Today, however, we saw a small hawk near the top of a deciduous tree along the South Yamhill River that I could never get a clear look at it because twigs were in the way. I had forgotten to bring my camera with the super zoom. Drat! Here is the hawk from the back, shooting into the sun. The tail (I think that's a tail) did appear reddish brown as in the photo... or at least something did.
I walked up the road to take a photo with the sun at my back but could not get to where I could see the front of the bird. My first thought when I saw it from the back was Merlin. But the brown tail threw me. And the front has barring on the side, apparently, and is light. I've only seen dark Merlins here. Help!
The bird flew while I was trying to get the scope on it. We drove on to Shenk Wetlands, across the South Yamhill River from the bird. We saw a bird in the top of a very distant fir that I thought might be the same bird. But now, looking at the photos, I don't think so. This bird appears much bigger than the first bird. Johnny took a photo of the bird's back through the scope. (He has a very dirty camera lens on his little camera.)
We then drove quickly back to the road, found the tree which was still a very long way from the road, and Johnny took more photos through the scope. Now it looks like a Red-tailed Hawk, sort of. But what's with the pale horizontal barring (hard to see in our photos but obvious in person).
Here are the photos I took with my camera.
Just to show I can tell what a bird is when it's obvious, here is one of the 3 Red-shouldered Hawks we saw on the route today... very far away.
And a Bald Eagle, even farther away.