Saturday, May 23, 2009

Unsatisfying looks

A decent variety of hawks was observed today from the hawk platform, although few of them provided very satisfying looks. Two immature Northern Goshawks made brief appearances, one of them attracting the attention of the locally nesting Merlin, who loudly told it to go somewhere else. In the photo above, taken a couple of weeks ago I think, an American Crow is escorting an immature Northern Goshawk toward the boundary of the crow's territory. That crow is nesting close to the hawk platform, and any raptor that flies low over that point gets mobbed.

A juvenile Golden Eagle was also briefly seen. Most tantalizing sighting was that of a probable dark morph Swainson's Hawk. It was a speck in the scope, it never got close, and when I lost the bird way out low over the tree line, I was 90% sure it was that species. It was really too far for a reliable ID, and sometimes you just have to let them go unidentified.

Another curious and ultimately not very rewarding sighting - but at least closer - was that of a Red-tailed Hawk with a nearly all-white, unbanded tail - with one red tail feather in there! The wings lacked a dark terminal band. I have to consider the possibility that it was a juvenile redtail that had just started replacing its first tail feathers, but I am quite sure the tail feathers were grayish white and unbanded - altogether wrong for juvenile redtail. I didn't see any obvious molt on this bird anywhere. I"ve seen so many odd-looking redtails here at Whitefish Point now, that's probably the one thing I'll remember most about this place.

Alright, count results: 1 Osprey; 7 Bald Eagles; 13 Sharp-shinned Hawks; 2 Northern Goshawks; 10 Broad-winged Hawks; 4 Red-tailed Hawks; 1 Rough-legged Hawk; 1 Golden Eagle; 1 Merlin.

Besides the Chaffinches mentioned yesterday, a European Goldfinch was also seen again today around the feeders. One of our blog readers posted a comment with a link to a very interesting article on European Goldfinches in the Great Lakes region that appeared in North American Birds last year. Apparently, a great many sightings can be traced back to a series of releases from the Chicago area. The following excerpt from that article just blew my mind: "As long as the birds are legally imported, there is no federal law prohibiting their release. Nor are any Illinois state laws targeted at the release of non-native birds." Not sure what the legal situation here in Michigan is, but I assume it's probably not very different. It seems very much a federal issue anyway, since birds do not recognize state borders. The last sentence in that article reads: "Citizens will have to apply considerable pressure to their state and federal legislators to encourage laws that prohibit the release of any non-native organisms if intentional introductions are to be prevented in the future."

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