Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sharpies take over

As Northern Harrier (31) and American Kestrel (only 8) took a back seat, Sharp-shinned Hawk took over with 270 counted today. Especially the first two hours of the count, they were zipping by constantly left and right, many of them very close, at eye level.

Other raptors counted today included 7 Turkey Vultures, 6 Ospreys, 6 Bald Eagles, 2 Cooper's Hawks, 72 Red-tailed Hawks, and 92 Rough-legged Hawks. Whitefish Point, incidentally, seems to be the only hawk watch reporting Rough-legged Hawks in any numbers right now. West Skyline (Duluth) for example has had only single-digit roughleg numbers recently, while other Great Lakes sites like Braddock Bay (Lake Ontario, near Rochester NY) and Derby Hill (eastern corner of Lake Ontario, also NY) haven't had big roughleg flights yet either. Of course Whitefish Point is known for being the premier spot in North America for witnessing Rough-legged Hawk migration.

Interestingly, another 'dark morph' Red-tailed Hawk was seen and photographed in the redtail flock today. Lighting condition were poor for most of the day, so the best photo I have is still not very good.

Hard to see in the photo but more apparent in the field was the barring on the undertail coverts, and the rufous cast to the chest and neck. Probably an 'intermediate' morph then, not a dark morph in the true sense of the word. Note the abrasion in the right wing, a feature not observed on the other bird two days ago.

And I'll throw this out as a teaser: I saw a redtail today whose upperside of the tail appeared to be red only on the distal part. The proximal half of the tail appeared to be white. Note that many redtails have light uppertail coverts, creating a whitish 'U' at the base of the tail. That's not what I saw. I saw partly white tail feathers. The bird was too far for me to reliably call it a Harlan's, but it was definitely a candidate. Had me scanning the redtail flock more thoroughly all afternoon... Hopefully this bird will show up again in the coming days.

Best bird today undoubtedly was a beautiful adult male Snowy Owl seen flying a couple of hundred yards out over Lake Superior along the north shore of Whitefish Point. Other birds of note included a second cycle Glaucous Gull, and a Greater Yellowlegs.

Note: Although we still have some snow on the ground here and there, the walkway up to the platform is now completely snow free.

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