I am not really a giant liquor guy. Occasionally, I enjoy hot-buttered rums in the winter or the now-and-then whiskey sour. Fogcutters are really nice, too, but I have had them maybe twice in 20 years.
Regardless, I understand the concept of "top shelf" liquors. They are the higher quality names. In vodka, for example, Grey Goose and Kettle One are top shelf brands. As quality is related to cost, top shelf stuff tends to be more expensive, too.
Yesterday, time was spent tooling around the farm fields of Monroe County. With camera in hand, we were hoping to secure some shots of just about anything despite the gray skies.
I finally snagged a picture of a bird that I have been stalking for a few weeks now.
Rough-legged Hawks spend perhaps half of the year on the arctic tundra. During that time, they finds mates and raise the kiddies. They have tiny feet, so they can't manage big prey. Lemmings and other small rodents are basically chow.
As you can see, separating this bird from the Red-tailed Hawk should not be too hard. They are a bit leaner, sure, but the patterns and colors are completely different. Those dark patches on the wings (called carpal patches) combined with the large black belly are huge giveaways. With a good look, I just don't think you could call this a Redtail.
During the autumn migration, they travel as far south as they need to in order to get munchies. They may head to southern Michigan in droves during one winter while the following winter may take them hundreds of miles further south. The year following that? Who knows! Perhaps only a few make it to southern Michigan. Each winter is a bit different.
I would make the argument that Rough-legged Hawks are a "top shelf" raptor.
First, unlike Red-tailed Hawks who breed, migrate, and winter in the region, Roughlegs are in the region only half the year! Basically, from October to April (or so). That's it. Think of it as a quality thing - not all pubs have the same "top shelf" stuff. Some places have Gray Goose on hand. Some don't. Roughlegs can be the same - some years, we have them, some years we don't.
Second, they are literally from the top shelf - the top of the world! It is not just Canada and Alaska, by the way. With a distribution that science folks call circumpolar, they can also be found in the further reaches of the Northern Hemisphere, namely Europe and Asia.
So the next time you look at top shelf ingredients for your drink, you might think about looking for top shelf hawks on your commute.