I Do Not Know What Soars By On Migration!

by Cindy
(Ajax, Ontario, Canada)

I live in Ajax, Ontairo, 21 years now in the same spot! Next door to the Ajax Hospital, this is relevant to the wildlife I see here and all year long! On the North side of me, is the helicopter pad and a huge field for the Hospital, and wildlife too. West backing onto the helipad is a LARGE Woodlot, across this on the south side is a 2nd woodlot, and a 3rd deep wilder woodlot that connects the south/west two.


These 3 connected woodlots are small (as in town sized) but very OLD for this town dating back unknown decades. This makes for very close and fascinating wildlife sights from my home here.

Today is October 18th, 2014, it has been very rainy & chilly the past week, it is overcast today still very chilly and windier, it feels more like November already. The darker daytime sky makes it easier to see a lovely pair of big raptors I see every fall, and today soaring on the cold winds, I noticed the lovely soaring pair about 4 pm.

They love to soar over the 3 woodlots that have abundant squirrels, rabbits, voles, mice etc., for them, even roaming cats and sadly feral cats. The pair I watch are always brown, not huge, yet larger and stronger flyers than the resident crows.

On the north (Helipad area) and going west joining that large woodlot, is a massive den network - a Red Fox family bred there, now Coyotes also den and even howl there, as there is much good "shopping" for them. Crows have (for generations too) massive nests near the den site, in fact every March when the crows start their noisy nest swoops, I know spring is here to stay very soon. This is also where I spotted the big brown raptors soar today and even swoop for a closer look at the crows nests! I can see size wise, the soaring brown pair are a fair bit larger and stronger, faster, flyers than the crows. (Interesting the crows lay low and keep quiet while the stealthy pair are near too).

They seem to love to soar on the cold fall winds most. If food is below they will swoop lower & so fast they do get very close, yet shy-like, they are just as fast to turn, fly back up to soar higher again. It seems preferring to soar more than hunt. I forgot until today, every fall I will see this lovely pair soar on the cold fall winds and for several weeks, I guess they are mates as I always see a pair at a time only.

I love to see this from my living room window, how relaxed they seem just soaring on the winds, so cold I have no doubts they are migrating. I am just clueless as to the type of raptors I am seeing, and so want to know, what species are they?

Falcons, Harriers, Hawks etc. it gets confusing, but they are too small to be Eagles? (pretty sure that is a bigger raptor) This pair is always brown, not striped with the classic Red
Tail the common hawk has (I know this guy from our cottage we had a solitary Red Tail Hawk, same missing feathers years in a row, told me it was the same bird).

My Ajax pair are bigger than this Red Tailed Hawk, no white that I can see either, even in full sun they are just all brown big beauties. They soar higher than the others too and so stealth like, I know they came from further north of Ajax, yet they are too small to be an Eagle or Vulture even. (We get Turkey Vultures soar over our cottage skies too, way bigger again).

Does anyone have a clue the type of raptor I see soaring here? I would love to know what they are exactly. My lovely "air show" will end quickly as it gets even colder, they`re always gone soon after Halloween and/or early November, it all depends on how fast it remains too cold. (and I`m sure food supply).

I apologize for so lengthy here as I am camera deprived for now, I will try get photos before they are gone if possible. In the meantime I simply would appreciate any tips to ID this pair of brown raptors, or photos to help me figure out what species is so faithful to my woodlot area. Cold fall after fall and brief as they stay, they are so awesome to watch soar around here.

After two decades these woodlots have educated me so much, I could write more books on the Fox den adventures alone and now Coyote activities! So as I crave to learn, any feedback on this seasons brown raptors, I so look forward to!

Thanks for reading - Cindy in Ajax Woodlots.

EDIT: Two days after I wrote this, out my bay window saw a pair the brown big wings gliding, then oh no there are 4 up high westward floating on the wind, to my amazement I kept counting 2, 4, oh my ..... 11?

There were at least 5 pairs soaring, not one wing flap, so graceful & relaxed, getting so chilly. I had my cell ready, but fast as the breeze blew up, they dispersed before my eyes, the last pair glided along the lake most, very high up to the west, last I have seen them for the season!

It is now February and I have my eyes peeled for any big birds to return! Interesting to me, I was so sure was a pair, only to see up to 12 that last cold day we had a real wintry chill in the sunny breezes, now I have space on my cell, I am so ready to try get a photo when they glide back this way!

Any help still I`d so appreciate the education on what is in our air spaces out here.

Thanks so much for posting here for me too! ~ Cindy

Thank you Cindy, for sending us your charming report and update, of the wildlife you observe from your home.

Perhaps one of our readers will be able to figure out what kind of raptor you are seeing.

Again, thank you!

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Jul 21, 2017
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Hope this helps.
by: Anonymous

I believe you may be seeing Broad Winged Hawks by your description of thick wings and the brown colour, they have short broad wings but not as long of a wingspan as the Red Tailed Hawk.

Aug 04, 2015
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Seems to be Hawks for sure here!
by: Cindy

Was heading out the front door today with garbage, August 4, 2015 and stopped as I was hearing loud almost cat like calls, up the trees paused wondering catbirds? It was hawks and 3 of them!

A smaller one at first flew off a bit bigger than the area Mourning doves or so it seemed, flew over the field that is the Ajax hospitals and was rapid calls as though agitated sounded like chittering but still very loud. A pair flew over the nearest roof towards me and over the building I came from HAWKS! NOT A DOUBT big brown wings, barred and so beautiful!

I spooked them also flew fast with the same loud cat like call & just time to catch the tails straight out back similar to a pheasant in flight, they too switched to loud rapid "chitter" calls. Flew back as I stopped quiet the one farther off my view larger and unmistakably a bigger winged hawk, it flew more relaxed and stealthy than its smaller partner.

Heard them a bit longer and distant to the west and not again for the night as it got too dark, these are not sure brown but seem thicker front to back on wings than a red wing hawk & not the huge size I think they are much higher soaring. Seems way up high no wing flapping just soaring these birds appear larger than they are closer to me?!

Anyone find this to be so with raptors close over head not as large as they seem soaring way up? Bars in brown too I still wonder, by the call hawk type?! Thanks for reading it was so exciting to see for sure 3 Hawks. I did not know they can call like a very loud cat!

Its August 4,2015 saw for sure today 3 hawks, brown wings thick and stocky, barred like a red hawk but a smaller type maybe, tail flight straight back much like a pheasant in flight yet no doubt the "catlike" callers were hawks! Left with a soaring departure about a foot or a bit no more tip to wing tip and loudly called out in Chittering sounds as if agitated I had interrupted their dinner hour.

Sunset soon after and they stayed away to the west.

Jul 12, 2015
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Update for Spring/Summer 2015
by: Cindy

Now into July of 2015 it is odd for this area that all coyote activity has vanished, we have cotton tail bunnies and more squirrels back, a LOT of cute small rabbits, I am thinking recent construction has upset the coyotes here (for now) or they ate their way out of the area?!

The big brown soaring birds of prey, I spotted a pair over a farm field & flying way up there, sometime in March I think. I was driving up Thornton in the Whitby/Oshawa border area could not stop to photo, I was confident these looked like Hawks.

Interesting about 2 weeks later same sort of field but in Ajax driving up Church Street north towards hi-way 2 same sight, a lovely pair big brown soaring and looking relaxed, again I saw no wing flapping at all and am thinking these are Hawks of some sort.

I see none close up or nearby or since in anyway at all this summer. It is odd, interesting & sad that our wildlife is affected by massive construction in the area, deer are misplaced too far south, spotted 2 large does on 2 separate occasions, the 401 new 407 ramps construction has deer sightings sadly out of place looking "lost" confused even and coyotes are nowhere!

Just my 2015 update, been searching but see no further brown soaring raptors yet for summer activities. I will be back to read what others are finding around here, bunnies are cute, coyotes not, sad for deer losing habitat, lots going on as this area is in transition that`s for sure!
Thanks for reading,
~ Cindy at Ajax Woodlots

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