Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hawkwatching Barre Falls-Saturday

Sharp-shinned Hawk

I spent this past Saturday over at Barre Falls for more hawkwatching as early October is peak migration times for both Sharp-shinned Hawks and American Kestrels. I was also crossing my fingers that a Peregrine would decide to do a fly- by but that was not in our cards that day.

I am trying to get in as much hawk watching practice as possible while the raptors continue to pass through because while you can read about the subject as much as you want, there is no better way to learn it than to do it.
Cooper's Hawk
The once thing that I have noticed more than anything is how much more comfortable I am with my binnoculars. If anything is going to give you practice using these, it is hawkwatching for certain. I have gotten pretty good at being able to spot a raptor very far away as I have gotten a lot of practice lately, it's just identifying them that still remains the challenge (but I am starting to get it!)

Sharp-shinned Hawk coming Head-on

But soon enough migration will slow down some which will give me some time for other forms of birding like looking for ducks in nearby ponds and rivers and waiting for the gulls to return and you all know how much I love my gulls! They continue to hawkwatch up until December at Barre Falls as many of the Buteos (besides the Broad-winged Hawk) have yet to start heavy migration so I still plan to get out there at least once a week if the winds and weather are the right conditions.

Sharp-shinned Hawk side Profile
Anyhow, as you can see Saturday was a day for Sharp-shinned Hawks at Barre Falls. By the end of the day the total was 180 and many of those 180 came close enough for a photo. It also gave me the opportunity to really study these birds and their flight style which are rapid wing beats followed by a glide. I was also able to really see what they mean now about the size of the head of a Sharp-shinned Hawk compared to a Cooper's Hawk which I totally get now. Another thing I noticed is just how quick these birds can be. No sooner do you spot one, explain its location to the other watchers and by the time you explain it, they are a couple of field views away from it so you have to look for it all over again!

Cooper's Hawk
Speaking of Cooper's Hawk, there were approx. 12 of them sighted including the one above who literally caused the song birds on the left to panic. Seriously, the lives of birds are amazing. Not only in the marshlands, or in the tree tops, but in the sky as well. We humans may have almost taken over earth, but the sky is still the birds domain, except for aircraft that is. It's amazing what goes on up there if you have the attention span to watch it!
American Kestrel
We also had our fair share of American Kestrel's (61 in total) Many could only be seen with a scope but a a lot could be seen with the naked eye, the camera or the bins. The kestrel's often confused me as I am not used to seeing them fly. They reminded me of Sharpies on Red Bull when coming at you head on. It wasn't until they were flying from the side or away from you that you could see those pointed wings of their's.

Bald Eagle

We also had a sub-adult Bald Eagle do a fly-by over our heads which was really nice to see.

Wishing it were a Golden Eagle but beggars can't be choosers!
The picture above is of a White Faced Hornet. A mean little bugger for certain!!! I wanted to take some micro photography for a change of pace as it isn't something I have been doing lately. It's funny how many other mini-hobbies you pick up while hawk watching when there is dead time. I have developed a sudden liking to all kind of bugs, air craft (with blimps being a 20 point bonus) and cloud formations. No, I am not joking.

Hoping to get out at least one night after work this week for some birding. I really want to get a better look at the gorgeous White-crowned Sparrow, but it's getting dark out by 6PM. Totally not fair!!

Take care all


John said...

Identifying hawks at a distance is definitely something that gets easier with practice. A lot of them have distinctive shapes and flight styles that are apparent at a distance. So even if you can't see the plumage, you still know (or at least can guess) what it is.

Jimmy said...

Nice blog indeed... Images as well as the descriptions are very informative...

BirdBoy said...

Kim, I see you like peregrine falcons, well i do too! They are my favorite bird of prey. check out my blog i just did a post on them , with some decent shots. Thanks for stopping by

Chad said...

How did you get so close to the hornet without upsetting him? Wow!

NCmountainwoman said...

What a great day. I went on a hawk watch last year and we saw NO hawks. To make up for it we saw tons of Turkey Vultures.

Chris Petrak said...

Your photos of the hawks capture what is seen at so many hawk watch sites - distant profiles. It is what mystifies so many casual visitors to a site, and addicts so many hawk watchers - discovering how to ID something that is only a spec in the binocs - good summary, and good counter balance to those close up photos in the guide books.

Kim said...

John, that's what I'm learning and what makes it have the fun I guess as I keep going back. I also find looking at lousy pictures like my own really help out a lot too as the lousy pics is how the raptors usually look in the sky. Makes me glad I am taking such lousy photos of them! HA

Thanks Jimmy, I'm glad you found my blog and happy you like it.

BirdBoy, went to your blog and see you are a falcon addict just like I am. You take really gorgeous photos. Makes me want to go out and get a new camera even more!

Chad, call me a freak but hornets don't really scare me. I just went up to it and made sure it didn't look as if it were ready for attack. It looked pretty tame so I pressed my luck some I guess! ;-)

NC, some of it has to do with luck and some of it has to do with weather and a variety of other reasons. If you ever decide to go again find out what weather is most favorable for hawkwatching to get the most hawks.

Chris, well said. I seriously had no idea if I would like hawkwatching when I first started. Yes birds of prey are my favorite types of birds but hawkwatching is so different than regular birding. I am totally addicted and find that I have my eyes peeled to the sky now while birding as much as I do to the ground. I will be totally bummed out when migration ends but there is always spring! Of course, it gets more stressful than because the warblers come back again then too. Sigh, the troubles of being a birder! ;-)


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