Saturday, March 5, 2011

Last Raptor Run of the Season

Yesterday was the last of my Grand Ronde to Sheridan raptor runs for the winter of 2010-2011. This season's excitement was the pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that have been hanging out since at least January on one of the private lands I survey. January is when we first found them.

For some areas of Oregon and particularly California, these hawks are common. But they are just now moving gradually northward into our territory, as are White-tailed Kites. If "my" Red-shouldered Hawks stay to breed, it will be a first for Yamhill County. The pair posed at some distance for this less than stellar photo. We (birder friends Carol and Marilyn who helped on my route) were surprised at the great difference in size between the big female and little male. All raptor females are bigger than the males but I don't think usually this much bigger.

The pair of White-tailed Kites we've seen each month at another private site were missing yesterday. I had hoped they would stay to nest as the pair by Sheridan did last year. But we did find a pair near the Oregon Wildlife Center, so perhaps they'll provide the area with more of the beautiful white hovering hawks.

The more common Northern Harriers were not as plentiful as last month. Perhaps some are starting to head north to breeding grounds. There was a pair in one site with the brown female eating something on the ground while the gray male hunted by air nearby. She is more colorful than most female Harriers I see. Since these two birds are already paired, they'll likely stick around here to nest.

Although we don't see our resident Barn Owls during our daytime survey, I add two at night if I see them. The female is currently sitting on seven eggs (but I can't count my owls until they hatch). I also get to count our resident Red-tailed Hawk pair. And the marauding Cooper's Hawk, if he puts in an appearance on Raptor Run day, which he did yesterday (and has daily for weeks.) I like having our farm part of my survey route.

At the Oregon Wildlife Center, we saw, as usual, more than raptors. This giraffe seemed to be trying to help us spot distant hawks. He has a considerable height advantage on us for surveying the territory.

I love my raptor survey but it will start again next November. Meanwhile, there are plenty more bird surveys coming up this spring and summer. And I'll be keeping an eye on those beautiful Red-shouldered Hawks and White-tailed Kites to see if any nest here in the northern limit (so far) of their range.

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