Monday, September 17, 2012

Turbo Time Birding!

Sunday was day number two of the official start of fall migration birding and this time it would be fueled with Turbo!  You see, I've cut back considerably on my coffee intake the past few months and I'd be feeling it Saturday while birding because I couldn't keep up with the very active passerines.  In fact, I'd be discussing this with Alan and Donna at that hawk watch site and be reminded that in order to keep up with the warblers one has to have the same behavior of a warbler which means hyper active and Turbo's just the thing to do it!

So off Alan and I went to Barre with the first stop being the Barre Landfill for nothing in particular of course, not even the Black Vultures who wouldn't be there.  We decided to go to the local powerlines nearby as the sun would be out our which would mean insect's would be out which would mean warblers would be out and we'd hear them as soon as we got out of the car!  We'd make our way along the path and it wouldn't take long for my Turbo fueled ears to hear what was once again very reminiscent of a Philadelphia Vireo.  We'd make our way closer to where we heard it coming from and make quite a few stops along the way as bird activity was heavy.  After a while the vireo stopped singing and then another would take its place, but this one had a sweeter sounding voice and a scold call which would only mean Blue-headed Vireo of course!

Luckily this vireo is easily pishable and it would come out to allow both Alan and I a decent view as well as a record shot.

While we had a lot of different warblers including  Magnolia, Northern Parula, Blackpoll, Yellow-rumped, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat and Chestnut-sided, the Black-throated Green Warblers would be the most numerous and we'd be thrilled to see them actually dive bombing and hunting for insects which is something I'd never seen before so it was a treat to witness.

And what would fall warbler birding be without fall warblers of course!!  Anyone wanna guess what this one is?

Why it's an immature Chestnut-sided Warbler of course!! (I believe female).  Notice the yellowish wash on its crown as well as around the wings and that beautiful white eye ring you don't see much in a breeding Chestnut-sided but it pops out now!

Sure enough we'd hear what we thought was the Philadelphia Vireo so do more pishing which would make birds pop out from nowhere.  Alan and I would both see a bird come into view and we'd both be thrilled to finally get the Philadelphia Vireo would would be a life bird for me.  I'd never bother to get out my camera as I was transfixed seeing it through the binoculars and by the time I thought of taking its picture it would go back into hiding.  While the vireo was more drab than bright, you could still clearly make out the dark lores and yellowish wash including the throat which was a treat to see.  It would also re confirm what my ears told me in the first place which was nice considering this is a bird I'd never heard with my own two ears before but rather recordings.

Philadelphia Vireo above.  Notice it sounds like a Red-eyed Vireo on helium (at least to me), and that's what my ears would tell me this morning as well!

Red-eyed Vireo for comparison

So needless to say it was a very productive birding stop and just goes to prove my theory that I need to be turbo charged for both spring and fall migration in order to keep up with the birds so lesson learned!  ;-)

We'd make another quick stop back to the Barre Landfill and sure enough the vultures had yet to lift off so we got out of the car to search for a Black and sure enough it would be epic fail yet again!!!  The Turkey Vultures would soon all lift off at once and the sky would be littered with them.  The picture above doesn't give it justice but rather a general idea of what it was like.  Notice the white speck in the photo which is a flight feather coming from a molting adult and we'd see a lot of this too!

After that it was off to Prison Camp Road in Rutland in hopes for more warblers and other birds.

The wind would start to pick up some and bird sound would be non existent but we still held out hopes for pockets here and there so started to walk some of the paths.

The place is rather popular and we'd see families on bikes, runners, dog walkers and horses including Captain above who was a rescue and very spoiled as the other horses were eating grass on the ground but Captain had his own stash of hay for snacking as well as the fanciest pair of horse shoes I've ever seen and they almost reminded me of my Vibrams!!!

We'd make our way to a nice spot and look around and it wouldn't take long for both Alan and I to spot a raptor coming out of nowhere and close to the ground in hunting mode so I shouted to Alan that I think it was my long awaited Northern Harrier!  After a couple of seconds it was apparent it was no harrier so both of us were talking aloud ruling out others as well including Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered and all the smaller raptors obviously as the bird was rather large.  The bird would land across the pond and Alan wouldn't have his scope so all we were getting were very distant looks of a far away bird with no coloring or field marks that stood out except it was a large raptor with a long, tubular like body and longish tail.  Alan would run back to the car and tell me to stay on the bird as he went for his scope which I did.  Despite the distance I decided to take my eyes off of the bird for a moment and get my camera out in hopes for a record shot despite the long distance between me and the bird.

And these are the lousy pictures I could manage considering the distance!

And another.

Of course the bird would take off as I heard Alan's truck coming toward me with the scope in tow!  We'd be in chaos mode at this point as I tried to relocate it and Alan set up his scope.  Country music would be coming from someone's car nearby and their two dogs would be headed my way again as I befriended them shortly before and they took a liking to me but I was in no mood for dogs but rather that bird!  Despite trying we wouldn't see it again so we'd walk a little further to get a different view of the landscape we last saw the raptor.  We'd get to a bridge and I'd see a hawk high in the sky and yell to Alan to get his bins on it.  We'd get it and the bird would be a Red-tailed Hawk but suddenly out of nowhere we'd get another buteo in the same field of view but higher in the sky and that bird would turn out to be a Broad-winged Hawk!!  Then out of nowhere another smaller raptor would appear and start dive bombing the Broad-winged so I yelled to Alan to make sure he was on it as well in hopes it would be his Merlin!!!  Of course at this point the little buggers got hidden by tree cover as we're trying to relocate it and after a while a Sharpie would pop out but closer this time so I'm guessing the dive bomber was the sharpie, but it would all happen so quick it was hard to make that judgement in the quick time we saw it with raptors popping out of everywhere.  It would be then we'd hear the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk coming from a tree which would get me all excited again as I need the bird for the year so we'd continue along our way and looking for the original raptor we saw as well as the Red-shouldered!

The Turbo had kicked in and I'd be all over the place trying to re locate the Red-shouldered either by ear or eye as both Alan and I looked around hoping to see the original raptor in question as well as my beloved Red-shouldered and it wouldn't take long to hear it calling again but this time high in the sky where I'd spot it in a glide.  The sky would be all blue but I would pick up that it was a buteo who was lankier than a Red-tailed and bigger than a Broad-winged and could see those hunched shoulders but could never get a good look at its field marks as it soon went into tree cover.  Oh well, not the best looks I've ever gotten of this beautiful bird but I'll take it!

I'd get home and look at my mystery raptor pictures hoping they'd shed more light on what the bird was and exchange emals with Alan while looking at my various field guides as there would be a couple of pictures that made this bird look like a juvenile Golden Eagle (white in the tail) and when it was flying low I'd notice some white around the birds wing tips and I'd remark on it to Alan while observing it and both are field marks of this eagle. We'd want another set of eyes on the pictures and turned to the raptor guru himself (aka Bart!).  Bart would dismiss the Golden Eagle and even be kind enough to give us the reasons.


1. The bird is too slim for an eagle
2. The body is too light colored for Golden Eagle
3. He doesn't think the branch the bird is sitting on would support and eagle.
4. Habitat is not ideal for Golden Eagle
5. Very early, but possible

For those of you who have birded with Bart you know it's always a treat as he not only knows his birds but enjoys sharing knowledge as well and both Alan and I did notice 1 and 2 and dismissed 3 or 4 considering its migration so birds show up at odd places but it would be number 3 that would leave me in awe in how Bart thinks as I would never have thought of that and he's absolutely right!  He'd then ask us if we considered Northern Goshawk and Alan did mention that during the chaos and after re discussing what we both saw via emails and looking at the pictures again we both believe it is indeed a juvenile Northern Goshawk and most likely the one that was seen by Mark and Sheila the day prior!

So there you have it folks!  Another productive day of birding, and especially raptors....I still need by Harrier though but I'm not complaining as Red-shouldered and Goshawks are not always a guarantee!

ETA:  I'd spend some time during my lunch hour at work on Monday doing more research on juvenile Northern Goshawks considering the only one's I've ever seen have been adults and they'd be flying overhead so would once again replay what it was I saw in the short time it was flying and since it was flying low, it allowed me a view of a hawk I don't see that often (except with Northern Harriers).  I'd see this picture which I thought was a nice representation of what I saw, especially the white at the wing tips which I noticed immediately as the bird is rather drab so the white stood out.

Which you will see in the photo above.  Source:  The Photo Naturalist.  Check out the blog entry and the success the blogger has with his plastic owl!  Makes me think I need to drag mine out sometime as it's on my nightstand in my bedroom for decoration but now think it has more potential outside!  ;-)

I'd also see something else that caught my eye on the Riff Raff Hawk Watch Facebook Page from Richard Crossley himself and the remark on the large size, small head and broad inner wings really caught my eye as it was something I'd noticed while in flight and the lousy record shots I got showed the birds small head which  looked out of proportion to the rest of its body.

So all in all a great experience and I learned something new which is always welcome!

Take care all.

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