Saturday, April 3, 2010

Burnt-Rossman SF and Partridge Run WMA

I headed over to Burnt-Rossman SF first thing in the morning to check on the Red Crossbill nest.

The female was still on the nest and you can actually see her tail hanging out in the above photo.

A little further down the road a few were found gritting in the road.

Incredible how tame these birds can be.

As I was watching the crossbills I happened to notice a large bird approaching from the south.

It was a juvenile Golden Eagle. Heading back up north on today's southerly winds.

As it came closer, the small white ovals at the base of the inner primaries were visible.

You can also see the "serrated" trailing edge of the wing. Another juvenile trait.

Back at Partridge Run WMA, I found a group of River Otters in one of the ponds that the ice was finally starting to go out on.

The fishing looked to be great and they were stuffing themselves with fish.

An adult Bald Eagle flew over as the otters fished below.

River Otters do very well in this area. It's tough to get a good look at them most of the time as they are very wary of people. These shots were fairly distant.

They also took a break to roll in a patch of snow and play around a little bit.

After their break was over, it was back into the water to do some more fishing.

They would occasionally hop back up on the ice and then slide back into the water. This one actually has some vegetation around it's neck. It sure didn't slow it down at all.

A good mammal sighting for today.

I stopped by the Common Raven nest. Sure enough, a couple of the eggs had hatched and now we have nestlings.

And then on to the Northern Goshawk nest. The nest has been under construction the last few days so I figured I'd check on it. The female was busily working on it when I got there. I watched her carefully adding another stick to it and trying to weave it into just the right position. Everything was fine until she realized I was watching her. I got the "evil eye" and I'm probably going to pay for this in the future.

Friday, March 19, 2010


I stopped at 5-Rivers on the way home from work. It was a fantastic late winter day. Mild, sunny and just a slight breeze. I spotted a Northern Shrike not far from the main parking area and was lucky enough to get some great looks at it. At this time of the year there is no doubt that this bird is heading back north. I knew this would probably be the last one I would see until next winter. Below are some pictures I managed to get of this bird as it hunted from a couple of perches.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It was a sunny, late-winter day, so after work I decided to take a short hike and see if the Northern Goshawk that I had run into a couple of days ago was still there.

I've done a lot of snowshoeing this winter and it is a very enjoyable way to bird. I still use a traditional pair that I bought years ago. They're a pair of modified "bear paws" made by Iverson. Much quieter and buoyant than the new neoprene and aluminum shoes out there.

It didn't take long for the bird to find me. It's obvious at this point that it has set up a territory and plans on sticking around.

Judging by the size and coloration of this bird, I'm guessing that it's a male. The flight feathers are dark (almost black) and the upper coverts are lighter giving the uppersides of the wings a two-toned appearance.

One look at the powerful legs and talons of this bird and you realize that once prey finds it's way into this hawk's grasp - It does not escape!

The clear blue sky today and the late afternoon sun made for some great pictures.

The red eyes put a nice touch on this fierce predator.

Some more vocalizing and then I figured it was time to leave.

This is a Goshawks territory.

As I left the woods and the sun was setting, I had a feeling I'd be back here quite a bit this spring.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


We still have quite a bit of snow on the ground. It's amazing how long it takes for for a snow pack of 5 feet to melt. Winters in this neck of the woods can be long and I have found that the best way to survive them is to stay busy and use the snow and cold to ones advantage. I really enjoy snowshoeing and this has been a great year for it. Not only is it great exercise, but it's actually much easier to get around the woods when there is a thick blanket of snow on the ground. All that underbrush that one gets tangled in during the summer is half buried and a lot easier to walk over. I picked a very remote area in the town of Berne today to do some snowshoeing. It's an area that I rarely visit and thought it would be fun to explore.

I was a couple of hours into my journey and so far things had been fairly quiet. I was moving along the edge of a stand of conifers and thought I caught a glimpse of something quietly moving through the trees. Whatever it was, it was shadowing me along my right side. I finally stopped and was able to get my bins on who was watching me.

It was a Northern Goshawk! Whoa.... Not everyday that someone gets a good look at one of these birds. They're not all that uncommon up here during the winter as a few usually decide to stop and hang around as they were migrating south from their more northern environs. Usually they give just brief views as they fly from a perch on the side of the road or are spotted flying overhead.

What happened next really surprised me. The bird flew closer, perched overhead and started vocalizing. They sound a lot like a giant, hen Wild Turkey. A loud, squeaky "Kek, Kek, Kek, Kek...".

It soon became apparent that this bird was not at all happy that I was there. Goshawks are know to be very territorial and this bird was showing all the signs of it.

They also really fluff up there undertail coverts during the breeding season as is shown well in this photo.

The vocalizing continued and it was obvious that this bird had no intentions of going anywhere. A nesting Northern Goshawk in this area is fairly uncommon. To find a territory and then a nest is even rarer.

I had to remind myself not to think too far ahead as so far only one bird has been spotted, and just because a bird is being territorial does not mean that it has found a mate or has decided to nest. I will certainly be stopping back in the future.

Later in the day I took a ride down to check on the Common Raven nest. The female was still on the nest incubating the eggs. All the snow and cold weather that we have been having have not slowed them down a bit. Some great signs (albeit small) of spring today.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I stopped by 5-Rivers this afternoon after work. It was an incredible late winter day. Not a cloud in the sky, mild temperatures and a light breeze. As I approached the Sunfish Pond I spotted a bird that was a little smaller than a crow sitting on a dead snag. It was a raptor with long wings and it certainly had my attention. I was looking right into the sun and couldn't get a real great look at it. It finally turned it's head and gave away it's identity. It was a Merlin. Now the question was if the bird would sit still until I walked around the pond and got my back to the sun. It did.

Merlins are one of those birds that have become more frequent in our area during the winter months and migration. When I first started birding they were very uncommon at at any time of the year.

I was really hoping that this bird would head out to the big field and do some hunting.

A Northern Harrier was also spotted.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I was over at Burnt-Rossman this morning when I spotted two birds flying through the woods. They were a pair of Red Crossbills that were unusually quiet.

The female was peeling wood fiber off of a dead limb on a Red Oak.

She was silent, intently working on the limb.

Once she had a small bundle, both birds flew off out of sight.

I had a feeling as to what was going on, so I stayed in the area to see if they returned. A short while later both birds returned and the female this time perched on the end of a branch and continued to gather material.

Once another mouthful was collected, both birds flew off again. Red Crossbills can nest at any time of the year so it was becoming obvious that the female was gathering nesting material.

The male remained within a few feet of the female at all times, occasionally preening and even breaking out into song a few times. It did not however appear to be helping with any of the nest building activities. The whole process was continued a few more times and I was able to follow them(on snowshoes) through the woods; each time a little further in the hopes of locating the nest. I think I'm zeroing in on it. It's only a 10,000 acre forest.

A Northern Goshawk was spotted taking a mid-morning soar.

The bird was gaining altitude quickly.

When they soar like this, it's easy to see how sometimes they can be mistaken for buteos.

The bird did not really leave the area and just seemed to be out on a reconnaissance flight.

Later in the day, some additional Red Crossbills were found.

What a winter it has been for these birds.

A Common Raven flew overhead. The sign of an awesome day!