Sunday, January 23, 2011

Frozen fingers and Raptors! - 22 Jan 2011

Temps were near 15ºF (0º w/ windchill) this morning, but I wanted to get out to look for hawks.  A Rough-legged Hawk had been spotted a week ago near Pt. Mouillee, so I was hoping to run into it.  I bundled up and set out.

First stop was at Pt. Mouillee HQ off Campau Rd. in s. Wayne Co.  I stopped near the gate and threw out some bird seed.  Within minutes a Swamp Sparrow appeared, followed by Black-capped Chickadees, American Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, and Northern Cardinals.  I snapped a few photos from a few feet away, but lighting was not great.  So I continued on toward the parking lot and boat launch area.

The spruce trees were active with more Tree Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows. A gorgeous male Golden-crowned Kinglet was foraging at the base of one tree, and I snapped away as best I could to capture this crowned beauty.  Unfortunately, exposures were 1/40 sec. at ISO 400, so images came out blurry. This was my best capture (but soft) so a watercolor filter in Photoshop helped salvage it. A few moments later a puffed-up Song Sparrow came down and fed on the fresh-thrown seed.

My friend Patricia stopped by and we talked a few moments. I thanked her for the tip on the Great Horned Owl near the Marshland Museum at Lake Erie Metropark (she found it yesterday afternoon). I found it inside the dead stump at the end of the boardwalk, but it was too far away to photograph.

I then drove over to Roberts Rd. to cruise for raptors.  Just past Siegler Rd., however, an American Kestrel was perched on an overhead wire and allowed a few photos from the car window.  Unfortunately I couldn't focus on the bird w/ the heat currents forming from the window being open.  So I continued on.

A Red-tailed Hawk was perched in a tree to my left just as started down Roberts Rd.  I snapped a photos from inside the car.  And, as they always seem to defecate just before flying, I was able to anticipate take-off and capture a few pics as it left its perch for another 50 feet down the road.

Near the entrance to Pt. Mouillee at the end of Roberts Rd. I found another American Kestrel perched atop a snag, and it stayed long enough for two digiscoped photos.  Two, because I had forgotten to put a memory card in the camera.  No worries, though, since it flew just as I was getting ready to put a card in.

A third Kestrel was found near the entrance to the Gibraltar Landfill off of Rheaume Rd., and as I turned the corner I spotted an immature Rough-legged Hawk hoving/soaring above the landfill to my right.  The bird was 1/4-mile away and just a speck in the sky, but I watched for several minutes, hoping that it would drift my way.  It didn't.

Driving south along Turnpike Rd. I spotted another hovering hawk near the Roberts Rd. entrance, and decided to make another loop and see if I could get a pic or two.  As I turned the corner I spotted a pickup in the middle of the road, and assumed that they were watching the still-unidentified hovering raptor.  Just then another Rough-legged Hawk flushed from the ditch to my left and took off into the field.  Apparently it was feeding on a freshly-caught rabbit.

I watched it for a few minutes in the field to my left, then moved up the road as it took off, and was able to grab a couple of fly-by shots as it passed across the road in front of the Escape.  Too bad it was back-lit, the colors were gorgeous.  I was able to get a few distance photos as it hovered over the landfill.  Yay!  Two Roughies in the same area!

I then made a stop at Lake Erie Metropark and parked at the museum.  Pat had met a birder yesterday who had seen two Saw-Whet Owls on the trail across the street, so I took a walk in that direction.  No luck finding Saw-Whets, but there were plenty of White-throated Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, and Downy Woodpeckers to distract me.

Most of Lake Erie appeared frozen, but there was still some open water 50 yds. out from shore, where hundreds of Tundra and Mute Swans, Canvasbacks, American Coot and Redhead were swimming.

An immature Red-tailed Hawk was perched through the thickets on a tree overlooking the lake, so I attempted to digiscope it through breaks in the vegetation. 

With rapidly-freezing fingers I snapped away as it perched, preened and walked along the tree branch.  I was able to capture (what I think were) some stunning poses of the immature, brown bird against its brown backdrop. 

Just as I was heading out I noticed a couple looking up in the trees to my left.  I looked up and found a Peregrine Falcon perched high in the trees.  I was able to angle the scope through breaks in the vegetation to get some clear digiscoped images of the bird as its warmed itself in the late morning sun. 

As I digiscoped the falcon I noticed a blood-tipped red tail and blood on its talons.  It must've just fed and was resting after its meal.  It moved very little, scanning to the left and right on occasion. I took my 2-dozen digiscoped images and moved on toward the car.  Fingers were numb, but I was happy.

"Live long and prosper!".


dwaynejava said...

Nice mix of Raptors. Great sunlight to boot!

Kelly said...

I love the crispness of your digiscoped photos! When enlarged, they are stunning. My favorite is the Kestrel...those colors are gorgeous.

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