On our way back to Boston from Vermont yesterday Patrick and I stopped by Plum Island for a peek at some birds. Though we had great success finding a Northern Shrike, Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeaks in VT, Rough-legged Hawks were not to be seen. Lucky for us, this one was hunting in a field just off the road on Plum Island!
Notice the long leg feathers this bird is sporting.
After a few weeks of poor weather resulting few birds, we finally got a
break on November 12th with a major drop in temperature and a huge push of eagles, with nearly 500 Balds and a record number of Goldens counted at the overlook. Though eagles are caught occasionally at raptor trapping stations like Hawk Ridge, they rarely even show interest in our attempts at drawing them in. However, on this extremely cold, snowy, eagle-filled day Frank was able to pull in an adult Golden Eagle, catching on the main bownet. Only 10 Goldens have been caught at Hawk Ridge since 1972, while Balds are trapped much more frequently with four caught last year. After catching this bird the news spread quickly amongst HRBO employees, volunteers and fans, and a crowd gathered at the overlook and at banding station to get a look at this tremendous bird.
Frank also made sure to contact Mark Martell of Audubon Minnesota who is involved with studying the movement of Golden Eagles through the use of satellite transmitters which can be affixed on the back of the birds. These 2.5 oz solar powered transmitters are attached to the bird like a backpack, with a light ribbon-like material crisscrossed over the breast and around the wings. It is tightened just enough to stay in place, but no so much as to impede the bird's crop or any feather growth. Data can now be downloaded from the transmitter for the next five to seven years, showing the movement of the bird, which can be use to better understand the habitat use of Golden Eagles throughout their life cycle.
After the careful process of banding and attaching the transmitter the bird was ready to be sent on its way, continuing on to its wintering grounds.