Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Birding 101: Accipiter's

That's right folks, it's back to Birding 101 for me and what better way to start than with one of the most confusing types of birds of all, which is none other than the Accipiters! Nope, I don't do things the easy way, give me the the biggest headaches first and anything after that is a piece of cake as far as I'm concerned!

I am nearing my 1 year anniversary of both birding and blogging so am spending some time going back on some of my earlier posts to see how much I've learned since. Since I seem to have taken a strong liking to birds of prey and have over 1000 photos of them stored on my hard drive, I chose to use some of my favorite accipiter photos and blog posts to see if I still believe the bird I identified back then is still what I believe now. I have a lot more help than I did back then, when the only guide I owned was my Peterson's and have since expanded and have The Sibley Guide, the Peterson Field Guide Hawks of North America, The Hawks from Every Angle Book and my favorite Hawks in Flight by Pete Dunne, David Sibley and Clay Sutton (do yourself a favor all and get this book if you like your raptors!). So with that, is my first post. I will be relying on no one for help or guidance on this as it's time for me to step up to the plate on my own a little more often. The free pass I got on my first year of birding is now officially over!

If you recall, back in June, I posted a photo of what I thought was a Northern Goshawk. I remember hearing the call of a raptor and it sounded different than what I was accustomed to (which is the Red-tailed Hawk), so I went to an open area and there up in the sky was the bird above. I was NOT using binoculars at the time so I used my camera as my eye. The bird looked different to me at first as it was the size of a Red-tailed, but didn't look like one at the same time. I zoomed in on my picture and excitedly thought that perhaps it was a Northern Goshawk! Went home, poured over my Peterson Guide, google, etc and posted the bird that I saw that day as a Northern Goshawk on my blog. I spent about an hour tonight, looking at the picture again and still make that claim. My reasoning is illustrated in the picture itself. One thing I should note is that I could barely see the eyeline if I blew up the picture, so you may not be able to see it on the picture above. I also want to note that this was one big bird! Must have been the female for certain?

And a really cool picture of a Red-tailed I took at some point that I chose to use as an example. Check out the S-curve on this bird, so cool and something I have never noticed before until now! I also want to include a little snippet from the Birds in Flight Book that I thought was very interesting. "Rule of Thumb: any bird that is first identified as a buteo and turns out to be an accipiter may safely be called a Goshawk". Of course, that rule of thumb is probably for the more advanced hawkwatcher out there on the field w/ years of experience, but I'll take it! ;-)

The one thing that threw me off when looking at my photos was the picture above. Yes Northern Goshawks are normally two-toned when seen from below, but the only problem is that it's usually in reverse order (meaning the underwings are lighter than the secondaries and primaries, at least as far as I can see).
I figured it was perhaps due to the sun and angle of the bird when I took the photo. The only picture I could get that would show a similar circumstance was in my Hawks From Every Angle (another great book!), that shows something somewhat like it, but on a juvenile (bird to the right). Notice how the darkness of the underwing coverts appear to go almost to the primaries vs. the picture of the Coops on the left of it.

Now let's go back a little further in time shall we? Back to when I spent a lot of my time birding via the kitchen window as it was too cold to do much of anything else for too long of a time. I was going to my kitchen in late afternoon as I remember I was baking something and I looked out the window and saw two Cooper's Hawks on my lawn and one had a bird. I sat there speechless for a moment as I saw one pinning its meal down on the ground as the other sat on my brush pile and watch intently. I quickly grab my camera go to the window, and off they go into my neighbor's yard. Off I run with my camera in just a t-shirt, fleece capris, and slippers to chase the bird! Hey, I got some good shots though don't ya think??

Anyhow, I called it a Cooper's Hawk then, and still call it one now. The reasoning??

1. The size, yes, I know that's not always a good thing to go on, but these were some pretty bird birds, plus you know one is male and one is female and if they are both big, than I take it as a clue!

2. The cap on the head that looks more like a bathing cap that doesn't quite fit (which is how I picture a Cooper's, vs a cap that looks more like a bicycle helmet (which is how I picture a Sharp-shinned Hawk)-yeah, I know, weird, but it works for me ;-).

3. the orange and white barring underneath as well as the rufous cheeks on the misses above.

And here is the male. What was interesting about the whole scene was that he was the one who killed that Rock Pigeon, carried it off and then sat there patiently while she ate. A romantic guy for certain! Notice his cap as it's a good example of my weird analogy. Also notice the rounded tail and white tail band that is clearly defined.

The following week, I had another hawk in my yard and this time its meal of choice was a European Starling (I am starting to kind of like these hawks at this point as I had a real Starling problem in my yard at the time w/ my home made suet). I identified this bird as a Sharp-shinned bird based solely on its size compared to the two birds I had seen the week before which were the Coops. Now as you can see, I am in a little predicament here. I don't see a definable cap and I certainly can't get a good look at the shape of the end of the tail, the only thing I do know is that the tail is long. I do believe it's a young bird (most likely its first winter) which makes it even more of a challenge. So, what'is a gal to do in this type of situation?

Why whip out some of her best pictures of Cooper's that will show off some of the plumage and size of course!! Now if you remember I got these shots of the Cooper's Hawk, the unfortunate morning in downtown Worcester when one of the Peregrine Falcon's was chasing it and the poor thing flew into the glass tower, stunning and injuring itself pretty bad. The Dept. of Fish & Wildlife came to take it to Tufts. Anyhow, the first thing that struck me was the size of the bird in the mans hands. I would have expected the Coops to look bigger than that so it's a really good shot to get a feel on just how big a Cooper's Hawk can be (remember size does vary-male vs. female though).

Also note the thin, dark streaks , that appears to end before the belly of the Cooper's. Sigh, such a gorgeous bird. You know I never did call Tufts to find out if the bird made it or not. I am embarrassed to admit, I was just too chicken (pun intended). I knew if I called and found out the bird didn't survive, I would have been very upset as it was my first rescue attempt so I just assumed it was ok as I hate sad endings.

So, is the bird of current subject a Sharpie, or is it a Coops? I am putting my
new found" credibility on the line here and am going to continue to call it a Sharp-shinned Hawk based solely on the size of the bird and the coarse, brown streaks it has on the underparts. The head, size of the legs and tail continue to throw me off as I think the head is big like a Coopers as well as the size of the tail in comparison to the body, but hey-what do I know!! I also have a couple of questions of logistics going through my head which are:

1. The photo was taken in March, Sharpies usually start migrating back north in late April, early May. I am guessing the juveniles are the last to migrate as well and I am guessing the bird with the starling is a juvenile.

2. Sharpies can get bigger birds, but their birds of choice are normally the size of warblers or finches unless of course, they are really good hunters and can score a bigger bird for a meal. This one scored a doozy for Sharp-shinned standards. Half baked conclusion here is this is one fierce Juve who came back early (or never left at all), as this bird knows how to hunt and had ample food in my back yard the entire winter! ;-).

Last, but by no means the least, the picture from hell. I never posted this picture on my blog and now that I see it, I don't know why as it is pretty good compared to some of the hawk flight shots I have taken recently! You will note that I actually jotted down the questions I had going on in my head and it was a bunch of contradictions as you can see for yourself. I so, so, so want to call this a Cooper's, but the tail has be completely confused. It's really short and squared with a noticeable notch, very similar to a Sharp-shinned Hawk. All of the other clues is giving me a strong Coops vibe, but the tail just won't allow me confirm it as one. Also note "narrow tail tip" should read "narrow tail band". It also looks rather lanky to me instead of stocky which is again more reminiscent of a Cooper's. So the tail was my determining factor here and I am going to cal this a Sharp-shinned Hawk here even though I am not completely convinced here.

Feel free to chime in with comments/opinions via email or comments. Who ever knew birding could be so much fun!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Birding Observations by me

If you click on the photo above, you'll see a bird in between the second and third window to the left on the top of the ledge. Do you see it? That my friends is no other than Mr. Peregrine himself. I'd never seen him here before as it's rather far away from me and is actually an apartment complex, but it appears to be another one of his favorite places to hang out and view the urban world that surrounds him. I found him completely by accident. You see, it was my lunch hour and I took out my binoculars to scan around when suddenly I could see something that very much resembled a butterfly so I decided to follow it. It was fluttering about, being carried by the wind as I traced its every move. It flew toward a building when suddenly, I could barely make out something in a form that very much looked like a falcon. I froze, adjusted my focus some and there he was!!

He stuck around for a while and then finally flew off. Every hour I would take out my bins to see if he was back and soon enough he was. Two minutes, later, at 3:07 I could see the female decide to join him below an awning directly above the WCRN AM 630 building. Hmmmmmm......perhaps she is a Howie Carr fan? Anyhow, while the pictures are downright lousy, I still thought it was a good demonstration on the very noticeable size differences between the two falcons. The female is approx. 15 feet away from the male, but she's easier to see due to her massive size. She also holds herself differently when relaxed. The male takes relaxation to the max and like to lounge which is obvious. The female remains flexed and alert even while chilling.

Click on the picture above and you will see the female directly below the awning on the upper left hand corner of the photo. The male is barely noticeable on the right side of the photo in between the 3rd and 4th window on the ledge. I was very happy to see them both together as I have not seen it for a while. It gave me the opportunity to really study them and their behaviour which I never tire of.

The downtown area also includes a flock of 4 Ring-billed Gulls (Note: I took these 2 pictures at Brierly last evening). Anyhow, they like to fly around the downtown area which is fun to watch when I can squeeze a little time in here and there. While they certainly use the thermals and updrafts that you get from all of the tall buildings in downtown Worcester, I can clearly see the difference in their flying style now vs. raptors.

It was a little windy in Worcester yesterday which seemed to please the gulls as they spent a lot of their time taking advantage of the "free ride" if you will. They are not powerful flyers, that's for certain, but more like opportunistic flyers and would let the wind do most of the work, similar to kiting. It almost reminded me of a tissue you would see getting upswept by the wind, being carried higher and higher until the wind died down and they would quickly drop in altitude. This is exactly how they were flying. Also really fast wing beats when needed and the wing beats were constant as they were weak.

Last but not least a warbler picture where I am not certain of the species. I went to St Philips last night and it was the first bird I saw, high up in a pine tree. The tail totally threw me off because it's so short but the bill told me it was indeed a warbler or a kinglet. It didn't resemble a kinglet to me, but it didn't really resemble a warbler either so I decided to get a couple of pictures of it. I was really far away at this point so I tried to slowly make my way toward the bird for better shots and off it flew. I put my bins up to it and it is actually a lot more yellow than what appears in the photo above.

Anyhow, I went home, blew up the pics on my computer screen, and pulled out my various bird guides. My verdict is........Drum roll please.........

A Northern Parula(?????)

Reasons are as follows:
1. Short tail (check)

2. Distinct Broken Eye Ring and pale eye-arcs (????Not sure, but its eye ring is rather large just like the pictures I used to make my decision)

3. Blue-Gray Head (check, as far as I can see)

4. Orange Lower Mandible (check!)

5. Sharp Bill (check)

6. Dark Necklace (check)

I also really noticed how white the bird was on it flanks and undertail coverts, so that is my final answer!

So what do you think. Do I get an A or do I need to go back to birding 101?

Edited to Add: Got an email from Alan earlier and just got an email from Dale in NY and Steve from PA and they too think it's an Eastern Bluebird based on the shape of the bird and the lack of wing bars (which I thought I saw at one point but am not sure now).

Anyhow, lesson learned again. If you look at my original writing, you will notice that I said that my first vibe of the bird didn't remind me of neither a warbler nor a kinglet and that was most due to the shape of the bird, especially the head as it is more pronounced in my opinion. I put my bins on the bird and could see yellow on the neck and breast (most likely a trick on the eye due to the sun), the bird also looked rather small to me (due to distance and the fact that I am still getting used to my bins I guess). So instead of trusting my gut when I first saw it w/ the naked eye, I went on the field marks I thought I saw with my bins and then afterwards, my camera.

Ironic because I am currently reading the BEST bird field guide book I have ever owned thus far which is "Hawks in Flight" by Pete Dunne, David Sibley and Clay Sutton (thanks for the suggestion Donna!). Anyhow, it is all about hawk identification obviously, but all of the pictures are in black and white which forces you to look more at the shape of the bird, than field marks that may be obscured or wrongly represented by factors such as distance, sun, etc. I am trying to practice this not only with raptors, but other birds as well so this is yet another lesson for me.

So with that I humbly go back to birding 101 and am glad that another case of the unidentified bird was once again solved, thanks to the help of some of you. Tune in next time, because you know there will be a next time!

Take care all!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday Local Birding

Did a little birding w/ Alan on Saturday morning out in Oxford. There were quite a few birds out there but all were on a mission for breakfast so it was rather hard to get them to still still long enough for decent pictures. When they did sit still long enough for a decent picture, they did so under the still remaining cover of leaves which made it even more challenging. Despite all that though, I was able to manage this shot of a Common Yellowthroat.
A photo of one of two Great-blue Herons we saw there as well.
Ventured off on my own for the rest of the day and decided to go back to the Millbury Cemetery to see what would be there today. The first thing I saw, just like yesterday was a flock of Chipping Sparrows going from the trees to the various dirt piles. It is actually very interesting to see as I had never seen them do this before because they were not forming flocks in spring obviously.
One of the most entertaining things they do is chase after one another in erratic circles that can make you dizzy if you are trying to follow them w/ your bins or camera!
While this shot was not totally in focus, I love the rufous crown this beautiful sparrow still has.Also heard a couple of House Wrens scolding each other so I pished them into view for an attempted photo.
I decided to go to the Cross Street area where I usually run the power lines to see what would be there. The first bird I saw was this Red-tailed Hawk. What first struck me about this particular bird was how white it is right above its bill. I decided to look at my previous photos of the Red-tailed Hawks who nested very close to this area to see if either of the parents had this white above the bill, but couldn't find any white on them. I did some research on the territorial behaviour of Red-tailed Hawks and found that their territory can be as large as three square miles. The location of this bird to the Red-tailed Hawks nest is less than a quarter mile as far as I know so this one has me perplexed. I don't think its a juvenile based on the red tail, and I don't think its one of the adults so I am guessing a stray of some kind (unless the adults have left the area-but I am not at all convinced of that). The only other thing I can think of is molting?

Edited to Add: It was so lousy out today that I went to Barnes & Noble and got myself wired up on triple espressos and bought "Peterson's Hawks of North America". In reading the section on "molting", it states that this is done on its primaries and mentions no other kind of molting so that rules that out. I guess the bird is just special that's all as Red-tailed Hawks never look exactly alike as far as I can tell anyhow, just like people I guess.

Speaking of molting, it appears as if this one is doing so with its secondaries as shown in the photo above.
Finally a shot if it flying away whee you can get a good look at the slight dihedral.
At least one of the Common Ravens from this spring still resides in and around the Millbury area. I could hear the call of one and looked above as it passed me. One of the things that first struck me about the bird was the long tail and the shape of its wings. These birds can often be confused with raptors when scanning the skies and the shot above is a good example of why!
The Common Raven was very vocal as he perched upon the fixture above. One of my favorite calls of all times. While its not pretty, its magic to the ears.

Take care all

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Evening and Office Birding

I did a little birding after work today and decided to hit the cemetery in Millbury after going to St. Philips to check to see if the Merlin was still there or decided to hightail it out of town after last nights cold front and sure enough he was a no show. Right the minute I stepped out of my car at the Millbury cemetery, I could see small birds flying in and out of trees. It was about 45 minutes before the sun would set and the birds seemed to be frantically trying to get their last meal in the day similar to a bunch of drunks for a drink right before last call!

One of the first birds I saw was the Chipping Sparrow above who was part of a flock of about 10 others. While the picture didn't come out all that great I wanted a record shot for myself as it is transitioning to non-breeding plumage.
There were also a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers there too. This bird actually threw me off a little as I was going through my Peterson Guide because while he showed the brownish head and white eye-ring for non-breeding Yellow-rumps, (page 353), he didn't show the brown cheek the bird has (page 337), as that is part of its breeding plumage. My guess is that this bird is still transitioning and that will be next to fade. This is my first time trying to use my field guide on my own to identify the fall warblers so if I am wrong, please let me know.
Another shot that will show some of the yellow on its sides.
And one more just because!
I have made a discovery from my office window the past few days and it has to do with the dozens of Rock Pigeons that hang around City Hall during working hours. Now for the most part, these birds are fairly lazy and spend most of their time either perched up on building ledges or over at the park eating bread from well meaning folks waiting for their bus. On occasion, they just want to fly just for the heck of it and I can tell when they are flying for fun as they will always land on a ledge. They have a different way of flying when feeling threatened and it is rather chaotic to see and many times in the past, I would look out the window and sure enough, one of the Peregrines was looking for a little lunch and they certainly didn't want to be on the menu!!

Anyhow, if I happen to see this behaviour, I take out my bins and scan the skies to see what it could be that could be causing the obvious distirbance. In the past, the bins only have to go so far up the sky because the Peregrines are never that far up as they are hunting for prey and not riding thermals. This time though, I decided to put my bins up a little further and a little wider. What was amazing was 9 times out of 10, there was a bird way up in the sky riding the thermals! (even TV's so I am not sure if this is related or just a coincidence)

The birds were more likely than not, tiny specs in the sky, similar to when you are hawkwatching outside, so it gave me the opportunity to practice while at the desk. How cool is that!! One minute you are working dilligently on a spreadsheet, and the next minute you are watching a Red-tailed Hawk flying into a cloud with grace and style!!

Anyhow, I did mange to get a series of lousy photos of one bird in particular who was actually low enough that I could get a focus on it, but not low enough so it could be a decent picture. When I first put my bins on the bird, I assumed Turkey Vulture as I got gotten 4 of those today so they are fairly common to see as I have found out recently. What struck me about this bird though was that the wings were slightly bowed while soaring. Yes I have seen pictures of Turkey Vultures doing this on occasion, but never experienced it w/ my own two eyes. So is it a Turkey Vulture? Not completely convinced here........Enlarge the picture and tell me if you think this birds head looks white to you??
Look at another picture I took and notice the bow is still downward. If you own the "Hawks from Every Angle" book take a look at the Bald Eagle picture on page 130 under "bowed".
Could very well be a TV and wishful thinking on my behalf, but I thought i'd put it out there.

I also saw some Red-tailed Hawks riding the thermals and the most interesting thing besides the picture above was seeing two buteo type birds riding a thermal and gaining terrific altitude. When I say buteo type, I mean solely by the way they were flying which was lazy circles drifting upward. The wing shape did appear buteo to me from what I could see, but am not experienced enough to say that w/ confidence as they were too far away. Sure enough one other joined, and then another for a total of four before they disspeared from my view. I can confidently say they were not gulls and I can't see them being Red-tailed Hawks as why would they form a kettle if they are not migrating, so perhaps they were Broad-winged Hawks?? Will never know for certain but thought it was note worthy.

Last but not least, I just want to say that gulls are impressive flyers! I had never noticed it before this week but these birds are masters of taking advantage of thermal lifts. I was able to observe this a couple of times this week and thought they were falcons at first due to wing shape. It didn't take me long to realize they were gulls though as you could tell by the shape and color once you got your bins focussed nicely on them. They even form small kettles at times!

Take care all!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Thursday Evening Birding

I decided to do a little birding this evening after work to take advantage of the daylight hours that will slowly start going away day by day, and one of my stops was St Philips Cemetery in Grafton to check on the status of a couple of birds I had seen there a couple of nights ago. As you can see by the picture above the Pileated Woodpeckers are back in the swing of things and spending more time within the wetlands just as they did this past March. I have heard both of them but have not seen them both out at the same time. One actually flew to its familiar snag (the one other birders and myself thought they may nest at) and I am thinking that perhaps it is the female based on the picture above as I don't see the telltale sign of the male in the picture above which would be the red stripe near its bill. I don't see any yellow though either so am not sure.
Picture of bird taken on Tuesday evening

I was also at St Philips on Tuesday evening to see who would decide to roost there for the night as it appears its as popular for raptors for overnight stays as people with the Holiday Inn, and I could see a bird on a snag that reminded me of an accipiter due to its overall shape. I put my binoculars on the bird and couldn't make out any of the colors of the bird or other recognizable field marks due to the fact that the sun was already setting and all I was getting were silhouette views of it.
Another picture taken Tuesday evening. Another field mark was the beautiful tail

I decided to take some pictures despite lack of light and adjust them in Picassa so I could make out some of the colors and this is what I saw. Hmmmmmmmm, I think.........This is no Coops or Sharpie, this is a Merlin! I was still very unsure as I am pretty good at picking out falcons by shape and this bird NEVER struck me as a falcon so I still had my doubts. I poured through all of my field guides, did some google searches and even referred to my previous pictures of Merlin's and other peoples blogs to see if I could solve this mystery on my own.

I had dinner plans last night so couldn't get out there again until tonight when low and behold the same bird (or at least I am assuming the same bird) decided to fly in just about the same time as it did on Tuesday evening. This time the sun was more in my favor so I was able to manage a couple of somewhat decent shots (enough to confirm my suspicion) that the bird I saw a couple of nights ago was indeed a Merlin.
The shot above is very poor but it still was very valuable in helping me look closely at the birds field marks. If you look closely at the edge of the wings and all the way to its tail, you will notice they appear a little darker than the top of the bird and form almost a blue stripe if you will. If you own the Sibley Field Guide to Birds you will see this on page 114. While the Cooper's Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk do not (as far as I can see)
Also note the mustache as Sibley refers to as "weak" in his guide. When I was there on Tuesday I could never make out the mustache due to the sun and that has always been the tell tale field mark of this bird for me to identify it as a Merlin. When I went home to lighten the pics, I could see the faint resemblance of a mustache in some shots, but then others looked more like a cap similar to a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Lesson learned: Don't always rely on the more reliable field marks of the bird as they may not always be available for you, look at other distinctions as that may be all you have. (Of course, I may still be wrong and the bird I saw Tuesday was a Sharpie and this evening a Merlin but I am sticking with my answer and don't mind being corrected by any of you if wrong.)
This is one of the things I have picked up attempting to hawkwatch the past couple of weekends and has gotten me thinking totally out of the box on birding and is something I am hoping to improve over the next several months. In the past, it's trying to get the sharpest, clearest shot of the bird but never really looking at it, besides it's gorgeous color. I now plan on trying to look beyond that and really observe everything about the bird which will be a challenge for me but that's what makes it interesting as I tend to bore easily. ;-) I also have some pictures of the more familiar birds including the goofy Tufted Titmouse above. As you can see they are still as comical as this past late winter when they were visiting my feeder, it looks as if it's trying to eat a cherry or something.
And then there's the adorable little Chickadee, the king of all feeder birds as far as I'm concerned.
Take care all!

Monday, September 21, 2009

This and That-September

What? You all didn't think you would get away that easy without at least one more post filled with lousy pictures of hawks now did you? Nosiree, I am on a roll and as long as I keep finding hawks in far away places to take lousy pictures of, I cannot be stopped! Take after work today as an example. I get off on a ramp at 146 where you are going from 65 to 35 in a period of seconds as you are going up a curved ramp. All along the ramp are Rock Pigeons and an occasional American Crow, but if you are real fortunate, the Red-tailed Hawk decides to grace you with its presence as it did for me today!

I am on the lookout for the hawk every evening as I drive home from work and know the birding routine of many birds along my short journey home. Example: There will always be House Sparrows in a tree near the Registry of Motor Vehicles, there is without fail a flock of at least 30 European Starlings taking advantage of the lush lawn near the car wash next to the strip joint, Ring-billed Gulls love to fly around the bridge near Fisher Auto Parts, there is a kettle of at least 15-20 Turkey Vultures that soar around Route146 if I can get out of work by 4:30 and the icing on the cake is always the birds that hang out on the street lights of the ramp because there is always that slight chance the Red-tailed will be there.

Yup, it's all about multi-tasking and taking advantage of getting in birding whenever you can, if even in the car as long as you practice common sense and safe driving habits of course. ;-)

Anyhow, back on topic here. I decided to get out of my car at the bike ramp parking lot and try and get some pictures from the bridge that is above busy Route 146 and despite the fact that the bird was very far away from me, I didn't think they came out all that bad! Love the picture above as it shows the Rock Pigeons in there with the Red-tailed Hawk. It may seem odd to some but remember a Red-tailed Hawks food of choice are usually small animals like squirrels, woodchucks, etc so it is obvious the pigeons don't feel at all threatened at this time. Ask them that in late February though and I am sure they would quickly change their minds as the hawk may find them very appealing since food for them may be a little more scarce or harder to find compared to now when the pickings are fine and abundant!
I decided to head to St Philips today after work just as I do at least twice a week as I have found it to be a very popular place for migrating birds to make an over night stop for some much needed R&R. There was not much there so I decided to look around in other areas that I don't venture to that often as it is too far away to get good looks without your bins. Sure enough my bins were scanning a tall pine tree and I came across the bird above. This tree is actually in someones yard so I couldn't get close enough for a decent look and at first I thought it was an American Robin due to the color of the breast. It was acting completely different than a robin though and my gut told me it was a hawk of some kind so I got as close as I could (which wasn't that close) for a photo. Notice the yellow legs, the blue-gray above including the crown and the shape of the tail. I am also assuming its a Sharp-shinned Hawk based solely on it size. Look at it compared to the pine cones. Sharpies are just a little bigger than a Blue Jay and I thought this was a robin at first so obviously the bird was not large.
Another picture of what I am presuming is a hawk. Was only able to get a quick glimpse of it at Big Y yesterday as it flew into my view and into a tree rather quickly. Picture is pretty bad but it is a Wing-on/Going Away view and has all of the classic accipiter characteristics including the short wings and long tail. Not 100% sure but I am going to guess Cooper's Hawk based on the size of the bird when I saw it as well as the shape and size of the tail and the wings. Feel free to correct me if wrong.
Last but certainly not least is a perfect sunrise I had during my morning run on the larger power line trail I like to go to on the weekends. The sun is starting to rise later each day so unfortunately that is going to rule out my weekday trail running for a while in favor of regular running as I am preparing for my first 5K in October and I need to get in three miles at least three to four times a week to prepare and can no longer do it on trails as there are no street lights on these trails and can't imagine trying to do it in the dark of course! Sadly that means trail running only on weekends and perhaps regular running 1 to 2 times a work day week which I find incredibly boring.
The biggest downfall of not being able to run trails as much is that the trails can be so trecherous that it really conditions your legs to get used to running on that type of surface. Running on the trails really helps to strengthen your ankles, quads, hammies, etc which is a necessity when doing this type of running because the stronger your legs, the less chance of injury of a twisted ankle or knee. I have decided the perfect workaround though which is to hit the stairs at work a couple times a week which is 24 flights in total (24 going up and 24 going down). The end reward though is the view from the top which allows me to see the entire city as well as a really good view of Mount Wachusett.

Take care all!


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