Posts Tagged 'Red-tailed Hawk'

Maplewood: March 27th 2010

I was expecting it to be a bit of a wet Saturday but luckily the weather forecasts were a little off and it turned out to be a pretty decent day, which in turn led to an excellent time out at Maplewood Conservation Area. I think everyone else was expecting rain too as I only encountered one other person in my first hour or so of birding.

Soon after taking the path that heads to the mudflats I spotted a male Downy Woodpecker and not long after that a second one. The two were busily foraging for insects or other arthropods and after I stood still for a minute or so one of them came within two metres of where I was standing (1).

The tide was too far out for me to confidently identify everything at the mudflats but I was able to spot two Turkey Vultures soaring high above Burnaby Mountain and a little while later a Rufous Hummingbird spent a couple of seconds flying about the bushes at the lookout. At the south east corner of the property I heard the buzzing call of two Bewick’s Wrens coming from the brush which was shortly followed by a brief appearance of one of the birds. I wonder if these were two males establishing their respective territories as this type of call is used in such situations (2). In the distance a group of Red Crossbills were audible.

After heading across the footbridge that spans the Old Barge Channel I soon noticed the distinctive shape of a perched Red-tailed Hawk in a tree near the center of the west side. I quickly walked to the trail that runs through the middle of the area and took some pictures through my binoculars before a few crows managed to chase the hawk off.

While watching the hawk I noticed that it made frequent looks down at the ground below the tree it was sitting in. Perhaps it was looking for one of these Garter Snakes…

Over at the West Pond a couple of Yellow-rumped Warblers (Audubon’s Warbler) were catching some flying insects. It’s great to see these birds again and I can’t imagine it’ll be much longer before some of the other Warblers start showing up on a regular basis.

References:

  1. Jackson, Jerome A. and Henri R. Ouellet. 2002. Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/613doi:10.2173/bna.613
  2. Kennedy, E. Dale and Douglas W. White. 1997. Bewick’s Wren (Thryomanes bewickii), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/315doi:10.2173/bna.315
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Colony Farm: February 15th 2010

Colony Farm is not a place I get out to very often despite it being only a half an hours drive from where I live. The weather was quite pleasant when I visited and it was warm enough at one point for me to walk around in a t-shirt.

Much of Colony Farm is open ground with a scattering of large bushes and small trees; in other words some pretty decent Northern Shrike habitat (1). I found a handsome example of the species perched atop a bush nearby the pump house on the eastern bank of the Coquitlam River.

Evidently this particular Shrike had seen its fair share of birders and their gear because after looking me over it yawned and returned its attention to the surrounding field. Northern Shrike usually look for their prey from an elevated perch and they may move from perch to perch depending on prey availability (1). I was able to observe this behavior as the bird frequently changed its position among three nearby bushes. Unfortunately, both for me and the bird, there didn’t appear to be any prey in the area and the Shrike eventually flew off.

At the pond/marshland near the eastern end of the pump house trail a Pied-billed Grebe was diving for aquatic invertebrates or, perhaps, small fish and a group of Gadwall were preening and resting close by (2).

On my way out I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk perched atop a pole…

Colony Farm is quite picturesque and the birding is not bad either; it’s unfortunate that the rapid transit infrastructure in this city is not more developed so as to allow one to get out to places like this in a reasonable amount of time. According to Google Maps it would take about two hours to get there with public transit versus the thirty five minutes by car it took on this trip. I guess I’ll have to wait for my mom to be in a birding kind of mood before she’ll take me out here again.

References:

  1. Cade, Tom J. and Eric C. Atkinson. 2002. Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/671doi:10.2173/bna.671
  2. Muller, Martin J. and Robert W. Storer. 1999. Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/410doi:10.2173/bna.410

Maplewood: January 23rd 2010

This Saturday I was again out at Maplewood Conservation Area. The tide was in when I visited the mudflats and I wasn’t expecting much in the way of activity. A scan of the area produced a few Bufflehead, two Pelagic Cormorants, a Common Loon, and the usual compliment of gulls. However, when I checked out the northern section of mudflats I found two birds of note…

Upon scanning the salt marsh I spotted a male Eurasian Widgeon among a group of American Widgeon. The ducks were milling in and amongst the flooded marsh plants with a couple of Green-winged Teals. Unfortunately the birds were too far away to get any recognizable photo when I held my camera up to my bins but this picture shows the characteristic bright russet-red head of the Eurasian Widgeon… or at least I think it does.

After ten minutes or so of observing the Eurasian Widgeon I noticed a group of Northwestern Crows making a bit of a racket. One of them made a swooping pass at something perched in one of the conifer trees near the McCartney Creek outflow. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk; a familiar bird of the street lights of Highway One but uncommon at Maplewood according to the WBT’s checklist. I wonder if it wasn’t contemplating making a meal of the ducks directly below in the salt marsh; waterfowl are occasionally prey for Red-tailed Hawk, among many other animals (1). At least in this photo you can see the hawk and the reddish tail that gives the species its name.

It was nice to get out from behind the desk and do some birding even if it was only for a short time.

Reference:

  1. Preston, C. R. and R. D. Beane. 2009. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/052doi:10.2173/bna.52

Serpentine Fen: December 17th 2009

Yesterday I had the opportunity to bird at Serpentine Fen located along the Serpentine River in the South Surrey area. It’s a location that I have never been to before.

From the observation tower closest to the parking lot I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk sitting atop a utility pole. These birds are typically “sit-and-wait” predators and so elevated perches in open country are an important habitat requirement (Preston and Beane 2009). Development, deforestation, and habitat fragmentation appear to have helped the Red-tailed Hawk to expand its range and maintain relatively stable population numbers over much of North America (Berry et al 1998 and Farmer et al 2008).

A little while later a group of eight Trumpeter Swans lifted off to the north of my position and flew to the south east. These birds were once prized for their feathers and skins leading widespread hunting pressure and subsequent population declines (Mitchell 1994). In 1935 only 69 birds were known to exist; however, undocumented populations persisted in areas of Canada and Alaska (Mitchell 1994). Today, numbers have rebounded as a result of effective conservation measures, but winter range habitat loss and lead poisoning from the ingestion of lead shot and sinkers still threaten the continued survival of the species (Gale et al 1987 and Blus et al 1989).

Most of the ponds were frozen over with a thin layer of ice. This Great Blue Heron decided that the middle of one such pond was a good place to rest…

The Serpentine River had several species of duck including large numbers of American Widgeon and Mallard, Bufflehead, Gadwall, Common Merganser, and two Lesser Scaup. There also quite a few American Coot. The surrounding brushy vegetation held Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, and a lone Downy Woodpecker.

At the northwest corner of the property I observed a Northern Harrier chase a Red-tailed Hawk. It got a few swipes in before the Hawk landed on an electrical power line pylon. The Harrier continued hunting to the southeast.

I had an excellent time at Serpentine Fen and I look forward to birding there again.

References:

Preston, C. R. and R. D. Beane. 2009. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/052doi:10.2173/bna.52

Berry, M. E., C. E. Bock, and S. L. Haire. 1998. Abundance of diurnal raptors on open space grasslands in an urbanized landscape. Condor 100(4):601-608.

Farmer, C. J., L. J. Goodrich, E. Ruelas, and J. Smith. 2008. Conservation status of North American raptors. Pages 303-420 in State of North America’s Birds of Prey. (Bildstein, K. L., J. P. Smith, E. Ruelas Inzunza, and R. Veit, Eds.) Nuttall Ornithological Club and American Ornithologists’ Union, Series in Ornithology, No. 3, Cambridge, MA and Washington, D. C.

Mitchell, Carl D. 1994. Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/bna/species/105doi:10.2173/bna.105

Blus, L. J., R. K. Stroud, B. Reiswig, and T. McEneaney. 1989. Lead poisoning and other mortality factors in Trumpeter Swans. Environ. Toxicol. and Chem. 8:263-271.

Gale, R. S., E. O. Garton, and I. J. Ball. 1987. The history, ecology, and management of the Rocky Mountain Population of Trumpeter Swans. U.S. Fish & Wildl. Service, Montana Cooperative Wildl. Research Unit, Missoula, MT.