Anyhow, Alan had some time for light birding this AM and was gracious enough to partner with me in my new endeavor which is doing some scouting for a Winter Raptor Survey I will be doing this winter. Today was the day to look for the already known raptors like the Cooper's Hawk near the park and the Red-tailed Hawks in Millbury and Grafton but also want to expand it some and include not only Millbury and Grafton but Sutton as well with a goal of setting a defined route through main roads, back roads and diverse habitats that will be done at least monthly through the months of December to March. I figured this was right up my alley due to my extreme fondness for anything raptor as well as keep me a little more focused this season which is something I need with winter birding as it tends to get rather dull if you don't mix things up a little so this will help (along with the Gulls of course ;-)).
We headed toward Sutton via Route 146 and didn't feel too positive about finding much given the time of day and the fog that didn't seem to want to lift but low and behold we did see 2 Red-tailed Hawks on our way to Oakhurst. One was 1 mile away from the Oakhurt exit perched on a fixture of sorts off the highway and another was about .9 miles from that one also on 146 which is most likely the Red-tailed Hawk that is commonly seen at the old Oakhurst Horse Farm. The picture above will give you a general idea of what visibility was like this morning which doesn't make for good hawk spotting so we made the best of it and decided to look for sparrows since we were there anyway. While there were plenty of birds there like Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, and both House Finches and Goldfinches, there was not much else so we headed back toward Millbury and Lake Singletary.
I have seen a Cooper's Hawk here once or twice so it will be included on my monthly route which is convenient as this is also a hot spot for gulls and sometimes even rare waterfowl if we are lucky enough to spot it.
While driving around West Millbury Road in Sutton, I spotted another Red-tailed Hawk perched in another tree and this time it was safe enough to stop for observation and pictures including the one above.
We were soon about to find out that the hawk wasn't alone as a couple of Blue Jays flew into the tree to practice some of their dive bomb techniques on the passive adult hawk.
After that it was onto a small pond in Sutton and while there were no notable ducks in the area, the passerine activity was in full swing with many birds including the usuals as well as this Brown Creeper above. Wish it would have stuck around longer so I could have gotten closer for a better picture but was happy just to spot it as they appear to be rather difficult to come by.
There were also a couple of Downy Woodpeckers and this Red-bellied Woodpecker above.
With visibility continuing to be to poor for good hawk spotting, we set off to Oxford to search for sparrows as well as a potential Cooper's Hawk that Alan had seen there before. This place too was filled with passerines engrossed in gorging themselves on their own Thanksgiving bounty including this gorgeous Northern Cardinal above.
And of course flocks of White-throated Sparrows like this first winter bird perched amongst some branches mixed in with the others who were all practicing their song and failing at times.
There were also scores of Dark-eyed Juncos including this very attractive female above. Now usually I find the male species of bird to be prettier than the females but juncos are an exception to my eye. I just love that soft brown color of theirs and finds it suits them perfectly.
Last it was onto Fisherville Pond in Grafton where we did see one Red-tailed Hawk that I have seen in that area just about every time I go. We were also fortunate enough to come across this Field Sparrow above which is the 2nd one this week for me.
And of course the American Tree Sparrows which I was thrilled to see. Some of you may recall Fisherville being the area where they put in that new soccer field which was once an area that had a lot of these sparrows. I figured there would be enough suitable habitat for them to stick around, but it was still nice to see with my own two eyes.
Take care all.