Monday, October 10, 2011

Local Birding and Hawkwatching

I decided to keep it local today and hit a few spots nearby with Purgatory Chasm being 1st on the list in another attempt at the Red-breasted Nuthatch and Brown Creeper. I'd get out of my car and the area would be alive with bird chatter, including a very vocal Blue-headed Vireo who sang its entire song for me as I searched for others. The first thing I'd notice were the MANY Golden-crowned Kinglets as well as quite a few FOS Dark-eyed Juncos.

Since I was striking out again on both the nuthatch and creeper, I decided to move up a little and see if I could find anything there. I would be happy I did as I would get my FOY Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. It appeared to be a juvenile, much to my disappointment, but happy just to get it at this point.

When you hit Purgatory at the right time, and no crowds it can be a fabulous place to bird. Not only for the bird diversity but because there are so many places that get you to upper tree level which allow some fabulous views of birds like the one above of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Love the look its giving me, almost like "How did you get up here".

I was up high and on a ledge taking this picture and actually leaned against a tree for better balance as the drop would have been drastic and most likely painful so common sense is a must if you want to bird there and bird around some of the rockier parts of Purgatory which I often find are the best places to do so.

After that it was off to Martha Deering to see if I could spot anything and a distant hope the Red-shouldered Hawk would still be around. I'd see more Juncos but not much else, but a local who walks this place every day told me he heard the Barred Owl last week so I'm glad to see it's still around.

After that it was off to Butler Farm in Millbury for my target bird the American Kestrel before it's too late.

I'd get there and the sun would be warm with a really nice breeze. The high elevation allows for really nice views of local landscapes including downtown Worcester and Wachusett Mountain and of course birds in flight which is what I went there for. The local Turkey Vultures were out and fairly close by at times.

After getting settled I realized how much I missed hawkwatching. It's a different kind of birding for me and requires intense concentration (especially against a cloudless blue sky), but it uses a certain part of my brain that causes calmness in me as I get in a certain zone and everything slows down and is very relaxing. I'd be there about 45 minutes and see a bird far away coming directly at me with rapid wing beats and a fairly long tail and I automatically thing a sharpie due to the wing beats and the size.

Soon enough I realize it's my American Kestrel so out comes the camera for a record shot. I had forgotten how challenging it was to take pictures of birds in flight against cloudless skies as the camera can't seem to auto focus against it so I was happy with my picture as it's the only one I would take due to how fast the Kestrel was flying. He's obviously in a real hurry!

I could have left right then and there as I'd gotten my bird, but realized there was no place else I'd rather be than right where I was. After a while I'd get into a rhythm and scan against the horizon going left to right and then right to left looking at birds and other things like the plane above. It brought back fond memories of hawkwatching with Donna, Bart and Dave and some of the things we'd look at to make time go by on the slower days at Barre Falls with our favorite conversation being cumulus cloud cover or often lack of.

I'd be wishing for some of that cover when I spotted a hawk far away and could never follow it directly because it kept vanishing in an out of the blue much to my frustration. I did have some local hawks nearby who were around the entire time I was at Butler Farms like this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk above who was practicing some kiting.

Tucking and descending!

Headed away

Another photo of the other Red-tailed Hawk who was present. Notice those wing panels and how pale they appear which can cause confusion with a Red-shouldered Hawk .

Soon enough, the Red-tailed Hawks had left and I was busy trying to identify what sparrows kept landing in the tall grass and disappearing when I'd spot a Blue Jay flying by so put my bins on it for practice. I'd get bored with that and put them straight ahead and in enough time to spot an incoming raptor that looked kind of raggedy. What the??? The bird was coming at me pretty fast so out came the camera for pictures.

The raggedy raptor!

And the raggedy raptor would turn out to be a Bald Eagle who had me thrown off some when I saw it coming at me face on and rapidly using those wings which is something I'm not used to seeing an eagle do. Can't tell if this is a Sub Adult 1 or 2, due to conflicting things I'm seeing on the bird like the dark belly (sub1), and the obvious wing molt I thought I saw when it was coming straight at me (sub2). The joys of hawkwatching while taking photos because you can take it home with you and analyze it some more.

And speaking of molting, the Red-tailed above seems to be doing some of that itself which I noticed as it flew overhead.

One of the juves taking a rest from the flying and enjoying the day.

Lousy shot, but the bird was far away and I put my camera to full zoom and then cropped but figured I'd share to show off the pale V on the back as well the white tail tip you can faintly see.

I'd finally come back down to earth and realize I spent close to three hours watching for hawks and do so standing the entire time with only a few sips of water to sustain me. While I didn't get much in terms of volume or diversity, I was happy just the same as hawkwatching was greatly missed and I appreciated the reminder of that.

Take care all.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Amazing how fast the time goes when hawk watching...tough on the eyes with solid blue skies.


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