Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Last Raptor Run

Today, Johnny and I completed the final Grand Ronde area raptor run of this winter season. It was a lovely day. Johnny was a bit disappointed, I think, that the rhinos did not make an appearance on the Oregon Wildlife portion of our survey. Instead, just wary Bontebok and a gentle giraffe kept their eyes on us.

I was glad to see again today the lone White-tailed Kite that we've been finding near the Oregon Wildlife property most months. Too bad it was too far away for a photograph. We started this route five or six years ago when there were fourteen or more kites in the neighborhood. They have moved on, to where I know not.

Since the purpose of these surveys is to find out what raptors are in the area during the winter months, we also report owls heard the night before and after. Last night, the Northern Saw-whet Owl that has been sounding off every evening somewhere in front of the goat barn, sounded off again... rather monotonously and curiously close. Johnny and I both thought the sound was coming from very near the Wood Duck nest box that is along the stream close to the front of the barn. Johnny shone his flashlight at the box and there was a little Saw-whet Owl face peeking out. The Wood Ducks are going to be rather unhappy to find an owl in the home where they raised their babies last year. However, we have lots of wood duck boxes scattered about the property so they'll find another if the owl is still claiming the box when the Wood Ducks are ready to nest.

We report our resident Barn Owls on each month's survey, too. Lately, one has been hanging out in the loft nest box, but not yet laying eggs. It will be interesting if the little Saw-whet Owl raises owlets in a box so close to the barn where a Barn Owl raises at least one brood each year. The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned: owls eat pesky rodents.

On count night, friend Barbara who lives along our survey route helps by listening for Great Horned Owls that are resident on her property. She has a comfortable way to listen for them: she soaks in her outdoor hot tub while the owls talk to each other in the distance. Last month, she logged three Great Horned Owls and one Saw-whet for us.

As much as I love the monthly raptor run, I'm rather glad it's over for the year. It's exhausting concentrating intently for seven hours watching for hawks as I drive. It was wonderful to come home today and let my eyes rest on colorful daffodils, primroses, and hellebores blooming in the sunshine.

Most colorful of all is the resident peacock. It is a pretty time of year on our farm.

The activities that warm weather brings are starting now: gardening, goats kidding, and, of course, horse-back riding and attending horse events. But by summer, I know I will once again be eagerly awaiting the first raptor run of the season in November.

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