Posts Tagged 'Sharp-shinned Hawk'

White-throated Sparrow and Slate-coloured Junco at Stanley Park

Thanks to the upcoming four day weekend I don’t have quite as much homework that needs to be done immediately, so I decided to head to Stanley Park after my classes were finished. A decision that paid off pretty well!

Both the White throated Sparrow and the Slate-coloured Junco (male) were seen in the brush on the south side of the stone bridge at the west end of Lost Lagoon.

I was there at about 12:30 when I first sighted the White-throated Sparrow foraging on the ground with Song and Fox Sparrow as well as Spotted Towhee. Unfortunately, having my cell phone as my only means of taking pictures makes documenting such a sighting quite difficult. This is the best of my efforts:

As you can see there are two bird shaped blobs in the photo; the top one is a Fox Sparrow and the bottom one is the White-throated Sparrow.

This is undoubtedly the same bird seen and reported since January. Upon checking the BC eBird records for White-throated Sparrow it seems most of the sightings at Stanley Park were from the second week of January to the middle of February; though, there are a handful of reports since then (of course, this could also be the result of a lack of visits to the area by eBird using birders). I had thought that I had missed this bird as school work prevented me from going after it when it was first seen and I was not able to locate it on any of my visits since the end of February. Sufficed to say it was quite a nice surprise to see it as I’d essentially given up hope.

The other and, perhaps, more unexpected rarity of the day, a male Slate-coloured Junco, was in the same general area as the White-throated Sparrow; though, a little further east along the path across the wood bridge. It was associating with a group of Oregon Juncos as well as the other regular assemblage of sparrows that inhabit this part of Lost Lagoon. I was only able to observe this bird for a few minutes before it took flight with a couple of other Oregon Juncos and, being unable to relocate it, I don’t have any photographic proof.

Coincidently, the last time I saw both of these birds was in New York City’s Central Park during the winter of 1999!

As if two rare birds in one day weren’t enough, I also witnessed a Sharp-shinned Hawk make an attempt at capturing a Song Sparrow at the marsh impoundment in the northeast corner of Lost Lagoon. Normally this would have likely been the highlight of any birder’s day; especially mine. So, as you might imagine, I had a pretty spectacular time out at Stanley Park.

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Maplewood: February 6th 2010

Another weekend, another opportunity to get out birding; this past Saturday I went to Maplewood Conservation Area. The weather was fantastic and a fair number of birds were out singing.

At the mudflats I was lucky enough to watch a flock of at least 150 Mallards all landing on the water at the same time; it was quite a spectacle. Mixed in with the Mallards were several Northern Pintails…

At the McCartney Creek outflow I managed to find a California Gull mixed in with the regular Glaucous-winged and Mew Gulls.

A few Great Blue Heron were resting on some of the pylons that dot the mudflats. At one point another Heron flew in from the north and gave a single “Frawnk” call as it forced a gull off of a pylon (1). You can listen to a recording of a Great Blue Heron at UBC over at xeno-canto.

Over at the western side of Maplewood I spotted a Cooper’s Hawk perched in one of the trees. Typically when I see one of these birds I’ll get it sighted in my spotting scope and then it’ll look right at me and fly off. I’ve never been closer to one than about 25-30m and I’ve always stopped and looked at the bird as soon as I’ve seen it; never approaching or making any attempt to reposition myself for a better view, yet every time it’ll take flight as soon as it sees me looking at it. Today I paused and thought about the consequences of my actions. I’m almost positive that the bird knows I’m watching it before it leaves its perch and so I feel responsible for forcing it to move to a new location. By simply looking at the bird from a distance am I compelling it to waste energy in search of a new position? Would it have taken flight even if I had not seen it but it had seen me? It’s terrible to think that I may be having a negative effect on these birds just by looking at them.

On my way out I was approaching the bird feeders at the entrance when there was a sudden commotion. I raised my binoculars just in time to watch a Sharp-shinned Hawk chase a group of House Finches into the bushes. It was just as exciting as the last time I witnessed a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunting at this location and, like my previous encounter, the hawk was unsuccessful at getting a meal.

Sufficed to say I had a great outing; it’s not often that one sees two species of hawk during a single trip to Maplewood, in fact I think this may be the first time I’ve witnessed such an occurrence.

Reference:

Bayer, R. 1984a. Vocalizations of Great Blue Herons at Yaquina Estuary, Oregon. Colonial Waterbirds 7:35-44.

Maplewood: November 29th 2009

Rain prevented me from getting out yesterday but there was a break over Maplewood this afternoon that allowed me to get out birding for a little over an hour.

I decided to check out the feeders near the entrance first and I was rewarded with a sighting of a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk perched in one of the trees to the east of the path. The bird appeared to be preening when I first sighted him but I noticed the occasional glance in the direction of the birds at the feeders (who were aware of the hawk as they were giving alarm calls).

Small birds form a significant part of the diet of Sharp-shinned Hawks but they are also known to take small mammals and large insects (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). During the 19th and early 20th century thousands of these birds were shot annually; often for no other reason than the fact that they ate song birds (Bildstein and Meyer 2000). Carcasses were often left to rot (Broun 1949). Shooting doubtlessly still occurs in some parts of North America but thankfully the senseless killing of the past two centuries is now history.

I had just finished snapping a few photographs when the hawk darted from its perch into the bushes nearby the feeders. I heard an awful shriek and all of the chickadees, finches, and sparrows fled the scene making quite a racket when they left. The hawk quickly flew to the south west and I was not able to find it again and determine if it had indeed captured one of the small birds. After a couple of minutes most of the birds had returned to feed on the seeds.

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats. A raft of at least two hundred Mallards were milling about on the water; many of them were resting or preening. This must have been a flock of migrants making their way to their respective wintering grounds as the species has the most prolonged fall migration of any other duck; meaning its not uncommon to find migrating birds in late November (Drilling et al 2002). Mallards often leave their breeding grounds only when water freezes and their food sources are covered with snow (Drilling et al 2002).

I’m glad the rain let up as I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get out birding this weekend. Happy Thanksgiving to any Americans who may be reading this!

References:

Bildstein, Keith L. and Ken Meyer. 2000. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), 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/482doi:10.2173/bna.482

Broun, M. 1949. Hawks aloft: the story of Hawk Mountain. Dodd, Mead, Co., New York.

Drilling, Nancy, Rodger Titman and Frank Mckinney. 2002. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), 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/658doi:10.2173/bna.658

Maplewood: October 13th 2009

I was not in the mood for homework today and so I decided to head out birding for an hour or two. When I arrived at Maplewood the tide was out so I decided to check out the western area first. Nothing much was going on until I got to the largest of the ponds (the one that usually has ducks). I spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk flying above the trees to the east; it was being chased by two Northwestern Crows who managed to get a few swipes in before the hawk ducked into the treetops.

The two Long-billed Dowitchers and three of the Greater Yellowlegs that I observed on October 10th and 11th were still present on the mudflats and actively engaged in foraging for food.

On my way out I had a look at the birdfeeders hanging in the fenced off maintenance area and immediately noticed a single Evening Grosbeak. Unfortunately it flew off before I could get any pictures. Song Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finches, and a few Spotted Towhees were also at the feeders.