Yesterday was our first break from terrible weather and we finally got to see big numbers of buteos flying. The problem was that the winds were so high that few birds were willing to come down. I got a shin, a gos, and FINALLY my first red tail. That was only our fifth of the year, and should have at least four times as many, but something's funky with them this year.
The first snow of the year landed us about two inches at the station. Last night there were record low pressures for the area, and if it had been colder for the past two days we would surely have been snowed in big time.
I shoveled out the bownets and got the ice off of the mist nets by 9:30 (after the rain had stopped). Not much seen today, but we did get one goshawk, which was on the starling before we even saw it.
A month ago, or so, a friend of mine came to visit me up here in Duluth to check out the station and see some birds. She did just that and promptly created a great blog post briefly explaining what we do here, how we do it, and why. It was informative and well written, depicting the station and the process of trapping hawks with live bait in the best of light. There were a few pictures in the blog that showed workings of the trapping here, and the head of the organization I work for was less than pleased and asked her to remove the post. I understand the issue of not wanting to attract the attention of certain animal rights groups, but the argument for removing the post is flawed as the following link will show you how readily available this information actually is to the public.
This is why no one ever wants to leave the station. Since 1972 this banding station has caught 16 short eared owls in total. Since 1985 there has only been one other, until tonight. Never before has Fud seen one caught during daylight hours. It is JUST another owl, but I'll almost certainly never hold one again.
Yesterday I had a visit from Melley and Grant and despite great winds we spent a few hours in the blind seeing very little. Around 5pm though we started seeing rough-legged hawks, our first of the year. They're arctic birds with very distinct black wing patched and feathered legs. We had four or five give us very low looks, but they are tentative birds and weren't biting. Finally I had a true set, and it was in the bag. Not only was it our first of few for the year, but it's always nice when visitors get to see something special.
I don't have much new to show, but I thought I'd put up a comparison post. A lot of these pictures are repeats but I separated them by genus and labeled them by age and sex if I knew it. We still haven't caught some varieties (like an adult male harrier) and I'm missing pictures of a few (like a female kestrel), but I thought this would give a good look at the hawks we have been catching, with side-by-side comparisons to show some differences.
Falcons: Immature Merlin
Immature male kestrel
Accipiters: Sharp-shinned Two immature birds, female on the left, male on the right:
Two adults with different shades of the eyes:
Northern goshawk Immature
Buteos Broad-winged Immature:
Red-tailed Immature: These are three different birds
Northern shrike. Avoiding serious wounds from these guys is tougher than with any of the raptors we catch. I was out when they caught this, but Fud gave me a call and all he asked was "do you want to see a lot of blood?" Naturally I packed up at the library and headed back.
Not much new here. Owls are real slow for some reason, but I still have faith that they'll pick up. This morning someone brought us a roughed grouse that hit a window and died, so we plucked, gutted, grilled and ate it. It's was chewy, good though.
Strong NW winds today which resulted in seeing a lot of birds and catching a few more than in the past few weeks. So far the total of the day is three goshawks, three shins, and one peregrine (our second of the year!). The peregrine was a hilarious catch (at least by the standards of the humor in our lives at the shack). I was holding the pigeon line while Larry and I were both staring into the sky with our binoculars, looking at a couple of red tails in the distance. All of a sudden I feel the pigeon get hit and I look down to see a peregrine sitting on it. Usually when you catch a peregrine you will see it coming and really have to work to draw it in, as they like to give tremendous stoops before committing, but this one must have come from behind and make a prompt decision about what it was looking for. The pigeon was no where near the bownet so I had to slowly drag it in (peregrine attached, of course). Amazingly the peregrine stayed on the bird for the 15 feet of dragging and when finally in the center of the bownet I pulled the trigger, but it only released half way (due to dried grass catching on the netting)... At this point the peregrine should have been LONG (very long) gone, but it stayed, giving me enough time to pull the backup net we have on the same lure, usually used for eagles, or situations exactly like this.
This was an immature female peregrine coming from the arctic, which is indicated by the significant amount of yellowish-white feathers on its head