Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Quite a Sight!

Yesterday, as I was getting into my car to leave the college, a male Northern Harrier circled over me for several minutes. What a beautiful sight! But, of course, I didn't have my camera with me. Doh! Will I never learn?

I didn't make the same mistake thi
s morning when I spent my coffee break doing some quick birding around the campus.

The soccer fields had a few more Savannah Sparrows today, and Yellow-rumped Warblers were busy in the trees along the path to the Natural Trail.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

How it gets its name

The area around the start of the trail was quiet except for N. Mockingbirds, an Eastern Phoebe and a few more Yellow-rumpeds. Honeysuckle was blooming and attracting butterflies.

Then, when I scanned the surrounding area with binoculars, I noticed something odd in a distant tree.

Good grief! as Snoopy would say. My first reaction was to think it was the mother of all moths. Then the logical half of my brain kicked in and I thought, "Must be a lost kite."

I had walked 30 yards down the very muddy trail before I realized that it was actually a large bird with its wings completely spread, presumably to dry them out in the morning sunlight.

I had to get close enough to get a decent photo. So I plunged through wet thigh-high grass and brambles towards the tree. All the time I was muttering, "Make way, cottonmouths, person coming through." (Cottonmouths are really common on the campus.)

Amazingly, the Cooper's Hawk let me approach and take several more photos before it lifted off and flew away.

I've never seen this wing-spreading behavior from a hawk before, although you often see it with diving birds like Anhingas and Cormorants, or with Black and Turkey Vultures.

On my way back to the office, I stopped to put the camera back in my car. No sooner had I locked the door than a shadow passed over. It was the male Harrier again. He circled a couple of times while I unlocked the car and grabbed the camera.Then just as I switched the camera on, he swooped off and disappeared behind the mobile classrooms. Doh! Will I never ever learn?

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