November is the first month for the winter raptor surveys that Jeff Fleischer manages for the East Cascades Audubon Society. Johnny and I did our Grand Ronde raptor survey today, Nov. 3, 2015. I was eager to see if I could quickly capture distant birds with my new camera, the Nikon P900 with the 83X optical zoom. They have to be captured quickly because we have to keep moving to complete the 79 mile route in the time we have between morning goat milking and dusk, about 7 hours. The first bird I photographed was not far off the road so was an easy beginning... a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk.
Then I got braver as the birds appeared farther away. This Northern Harrier was a long way off in a field. I tried to steady the camera on the window.
This little American Kestrel was even farther away.
The Red-tailed Hawk below was a ridiculous distance away and camouflaged against treees, but its red tail showed up nicely.
We had packed
lunches so as not to lose any birding time and ate them at Huddleston Pond in Willamina. A Bald Eagle soared way in
the distance before disappearing... too quickly for a photo. A Belted Kingfisher was more cooperative. It sat on a fence by the pond. I hand held the camera to take this shot.
A Common Goldeneye was swimming away from the hordes of Canada Geese, American Wigeon and Coots, among others, in the fishing pond.
Afternoon birding was slow. But we did have a great.. . distant... view of a Christmas Tree operation. A helicopter was lifting bundles of trees and dropping them into trucks. Five trucks were lined up. Look closely to see the bundle of trees the helicopter is about to drop. Johnny timed it: less than one minute from picking up one load to picking up the next.
At Noble Oaks, formerly Oregon Wildlife, we saw four Harriers. This one caught something in the field and ate it while we watched.
From up on the top of the hill at Noble Oaks, the new solar array by the highway can be seen almost in its entirety. Only a small portion (as in the first photo from up at Noble Oaks) can be seen from Hwy 18.
Here is the length that we could see from on high. That thin silvery line across the entire middle of the photo is the solar array.
Our totals (of raptors) for the count were: 21 Redtailed Hawks, 14 American Kestrels, 7 Northern Harriers, 1 Bald Eagle, 3 Cooper's Hawks (that did not hang around for photos),1 Barn Owl (heard at our farm) and 1 Red-shouldered Hawk. This is about half as many raptors as we usually get on our Grand Ronde route in November. Perhaps it's the weather. Hopefully numbers will grow as the season progresses and more raptors arrive from their northern breeding territories.
Maybe next time we will see (and photograph!) a Rough-legged Hawk. And maybe the White-tailed Kites will return. The long zoom on this camera makes raptor routes more exciting than ever... but just as, or maybe more, exhausting. Seven hours of intense concentration looking for hawks wore us both out today.