Monthly Archives: January 2009

Awash in Rough-legged Hawks

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I was surprised to see 4 different Rough-legged Hawks at the Great Swamp (in the measly 1/2 hour I had to spend there) on Saturday.  Curious to see if there were any at the Wallkill; I decided to take a run through the farm country in lower Orange county (NY) to see what was shakin’ before swinging by Oil City Road at sunset for the raptor show.

As I crawled along deserted snowy roads I found Rough-legged Hawks alright.  I was delighted to find 1 sitting in a tree overlooking the sod farm on Skinner Road.  Then pulling back onto Route 6, heading into Pine Island; I squeezed half off the road when I saw  both light and dark morphs on successive telephone poles.  While I sat there 2 more flew across the road to land in a copse of trees while 1  hovered over a field.  That’s 5.  5 + 1  Holy Cow.  I was on a roll.  Now that I knew they used telephone poles like Red-tailed Hawks, I scanned every hawk on every pole as I headed toward Oil City Road. I found another 1 sitting on a pole beside a pole with a Red-tailed Hawk that provided a lovely comparison.   Alas, there was no shoulder to pull off.  Spotting a dead-end road not far ahead, I thought to park on the edge of that and hike back for the hawks.  But as soon as I got out of the car, I glanced up and in the trees overhead was another Rough-legged Hawk.  He took off winging his way across the road toward some distant trees where I spotted yet another dark morph.  I shook my head, counting hawks on my fingers.

As I approached the Oil City Road parking lot, giddy from seeing all the arctic hawks, a Harrier flew across the road and the resident Red-tailed Hawk sat on a pole.  I spent the next hour standing in deep snow watching Harriers (4 and 1 gray ghost), 4 more Rough-legged Hawks, and the local Tail as they went about the end of their day.  The Rough-legged Hawks flew back and forth across the marsh occasionally stopping to hover in place.  I did not see any of them actually get anything.  Snow started to fall making visibility in the gathering dusk more and more difficult.  I finally left, covered in snow, without seeing the owls.

All in all, I had 13 Rough-legged Hawks in both morphs, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 4 Harriers and 1 Kestrel.

Is it me, or do there seem to be more Rough-legged Hawks around this winter?

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♫ Found a peanut ♫

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♪ Found a peanut… ♪

peanuts-in-the-shell

♪ Found a peanut… ♪

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♪ Found a peanut, just now… ♫

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♪ I just now, found a peanut… ♫

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♪ Found a peanut, just now. ♪

squirrel-with-peanut

Heh, heh,   ♪ Me too…. ♪

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Hey!  No fair.  They are mine!!!!  Grumble, grumble.  Stupid squirrel peanut thief….

Do you know the “Found a Peanut” song? It is what I thought of while watching the Jays on this sunny but -10F morning.  Stay warm my friends.

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My World – snow spot

chickadee-snow-bath-wallow

Can you guess what this is?

Not a footprint.

Nothing fell from the trees.

Not a squirrel butt mark.

I’ll give you a hint….

Think small, really small….

Give up?

It is a chickadee snow bath wallow.

I looked out my window to see a Black-capped Chickadee taking a snow bath.  By the time I dashed to the garage to get the camera out of the car and made it round the house; the Chickadee was long gone, but its tub was still there.  Pretty cool, huh.  Now that I know they do this, I’m on the lookout.  I’d love to get it on video.

To see what is happening in other parts of the world, check out Show My World.

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Bird Photography Weekly-Yellow-billed Loon

I have been to Alaska on business trips a number of times and have always managed to scrape together some time to add on a birding excursion or two.   The last time I was there, I had an unexpected bonus.  I had booked a 1/2 day boat trip around the bay (this would be my first time back on the water after the disastrous trip in California).  It was in June and still bitterly cold out, or at least I thought so.  There were 15 of us huddled together inside the tiny cabin peering out through the wide windows.  There was talk in town about an immature Yellow-billed Loon being found, but then it had disappeared.  Apparently they were around, but not common.  I asked the captain of our boat if there was any chance that we would see it.  He didn’t sound hopeful. Oh, well. We all shrugged. He offered the possibility of an Aleutian Tern. We all happily abandoned the Loon for the Tern.

Coming back into the harbor after a terrific day of seeing amazing birds, we were all chatting about what we had seen where; when the oddest, palest loon I have ever seen was suddenly next to the boat. It popped up, then disappeared and reappeared a little ways away.  We all rushed to the back of the boat.  The captain swung the boat around in a wide arc and just when we had given up; the loon popped up right beside the boat.  Sweet!  Talk about icing on the Cake!  Have you been to Alaska yet?

To see other birds check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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Siskin Visit during an Ice Storm

pine-siskin-in-an-icy-tree

I woke up to a world turned to glass.  Every paved surface was as smooth as a skating rink and icicles dripped from the trees.  The rain that everyone else had down below was freezing rain on the mountain.  The backyard was a flurry of activity as the regular crowd ate its way through yesterday’s seed.  Unable to leave the house, I couldn’t make it out to fill the bird feeders.  With no other option, I stood in the doorway to the deck and tossed handfuls of seed out onto the wind and the ground.  Within an hour, the backyard regulars had been joined by a flock of 20 Goldfinches, 35 Pine Siskins and 1 female Purple Finch.

I have been seeing Pine Siskin flocks flying over, but they had not visited my offerings until today.  And today, I am awash in them.

I happily stood in my toasty house and took photo after photo.

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I see on the local ListServ that many people had an influx of Siskins to their feeders during the storm.

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Bird Photography Weekly-Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Alaska

Winter is a great time to look for Eagles.  We have them here in NJ on both the Delaware and Hudson Rivers as well as most reservoirs.  Many bird groups or Audubon Societies offer winter Eagle field trips.  Check it out and dress warm if you go. I almost froze my patootie once on an eagle trip.

But, let me tell you an Eagle story.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving around the Wanaque Reservoir I glanced through the trees and there were thousands of Common Mergansers sitting on the water.  Thinking there might be other things hanging around with such a large flock, I slowed up and squeezed into the only available hint of a pull-off.  I walked back to peer over the fence and through the trees.  Hoping for a better view, I followed the fence line until I found a thin opening through the trees, when all of a sudden the Merganzers exploded into a swirling mass of white.  I looked up expecting a Peregrine or some other raptor.  What I saw was a 3rd year immature Bald Eagle.  As soon as the flock would settle down onto another part of the water, he would buzz over the top of them causing them to take to flight again.  He did it repeatedly, I could almost hear the laughing.  I watched transfixed.  I had never seen anything like it.  After playing with the Merganser for several passes, he started to swoop low and drag his big yellow feet in the water that they had vacated.  Maybe he was  fishing?  He suddenly veered off to the north when a large adult Bald Eagle appeared.  It started to do the same thing though-flying low over the water and dragging its feet.  Within a few minutes the immature Bald Eagle was back and they both skimmed the water back and forth dragging their feet.  I watched them for perhaps 20 minutes.  They were still doing it when I left.  It was one of those birdwatching moments when I wished someone else had been there to see it.  Have you seen Eagles do this?  Were they fishing?

To see other birds check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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Sorting through Flocks of Canada Geese

cagos-in-the-snow

One of the joys and sorrows of winter birding in the Northeast is all of the odd geese (Greater White-fronted, Pink-footed, Ross’s, Cackling) that show up with the migratory flocks of Canada Geese.  But searching for an odd goose in a sea of Canada Geese is a study in perseverance. It has taken me 5 tries this year (and 3 last year) to finally get on the Barnacle Goose that has been in Califon, NJ. Part of the problem is that there are many farm fields where the flock could be munching it’s way through the corn stubble. Then there is also lots of pasture land with yummy, tender, frost-weaken grasses.  Some of the fields are close to the road while others are far and really not viewable.  So I would end up creeping around back country roads looking at field after field of geese.  (Ya know, there really are a lot of Canada Geese in the world.) And, of course, the flock in front of you may not be THE flock you are looking for.  Sigh, it is a trial.  BUT, I finally found the Barnacle Goose today in an orchard (of all places).  Can you see it in the picture?  Trust me it’s there.  And yes, it was snowing, again.

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