Monday, February 08, 2010

Raptors Galore

I had planned to spend Sunday mo
rning in Baytown, watching the nesting Bald Eagles there. However, at the last minute Dee and I changed plans and headed for the Attwater Prairie Chicken Refuge instead. We spent 2.5 hours at the refuge on what turned out to be a rather cold, gray and breezy morning. Because of the weather, we did virtually all of our birding from the warmth of the car! We never see as many different species at Attwater at, say, Brazoria or Anahuac but we always enjoy our visits there because it's a usually wonderful place for watching raptors. Yesterday was certainly no exception.

We saw our first raptors before we even entered the refuge proper, when we spotted a pair of White-tailed Hawks sitting on a windmill beside the entrance road. These turned out to be only the first of half-a-dozen White-taileds that we saw during our visit.

The entrance road also had Black and Turkey Vultures.

We hadn't been on the auto loop long before we started seeing American Kestrels and Dee was lucky enough to see a pair mating.

We spent a lot of time watching pairs of Northern Harriers crisscrossing the prairie in their hunt for small mammals and other prey. It's a sight that never loses its fascination for either of us.

Red-tailed Hawks were comparatively rare: We saw only two.

By contrast, Crested Caracaras were ev
erywhere. Like the other raptors, they seemed almost always to be in pairs, some sitting quietly by the side of the track.

Others were more active. One of this pair was busy ripping the fur off a rodent that it had caught while its partner stood patiently by.

Of course, not all of the birds we saw at Attwater were raptors. I will report on some of the other species tomorrow.

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