Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Raptor Run of 2011

It was a cold, cloudy day but luck was with me and my crack birdwatching friend Carol on our first raptor run of the new year. One mile from Fink Family Farm, we saw the bird that made me initiate this survey route... the beautiful White-tailed Kite. Carol and I had seen eight of them on our December run, but none near home, where they used to hunt years ago when I started this route as part of the East Cascades Bird Conservancy's winter raptor study.

This month, we found seven kites but in more locations than last time. They seem to be returning to their former haunts... all except Orchard St. near Sheridan where a pair successfully fledged three youngsters this fall... and then disappeared. The kite pictured was hunting from a hedge row on private property that we have permission to tour each month.
But the kites were not the most exciting bird we found yesterday. On another private property that we tour monthly, we found a Red-shouldered Hawk. These beautiful hawks are common in California but only recently have begun moving northward. This was the first I'd ever seen in Yamhill county and the first adult bird of this species that Carol had seen here. Usually, the adventurous birds are juveniles, looking for new territories. But this was a brilliant adult. Alas, it was way too far away for a good photo (which seems to be my luck with Red-shouldered Hawks, no matter where I find them.)

And, as usual, there were interesting mammals to view on the third of the private properties we survey. Oregon Wildlife Center has a new young female giraffe (photo left) to keep Al (photo right) company. She is considerably smaller than Al but he seems delighted with her company.

Al came close to our car to say hi. Or maybe just to see who was in that tiny vehicle.

Rather happily, in my opinion, the White Rhinos that provided so much excitement last year were not around. Instead, we saw lovely and rare Cuvier's Gazelles. Along with two more White-tailed Kites (among other hawks).

Carol and I are looking forward to next month and what it may bring. That is the lure of bird... and mammal... watching. You never know what might turn up.

I'm always hoping for something close enough (or big enough) to photograph.

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