Suffered a huge loss today. The Great Horned Owl nest that I have been following likely fell victim to the powerful wind storm last night. Wind speeds reached at least 58 mph. No adult Great horned Owls could be located at the site, and there were broken eggs under the nest being picked over by Crows in the morning. Nature is a cruel mother, but life goes on for some. I made it out to Reinstein Woods today and was greeted by a fast moving flock of about 6 Eastern Bluebirds. I wasn't able to snap pics, but a family was feeding Black-capped Chickadees as I walked by, and one landed on my finger for a nice cell phone pic. Other species noted were Tufted Titmouse, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-tailed Hawk, American Crow, Downy Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, and Gray Squirrel. My intention was to check on the Great Horned Owl's nest there and make sure it didn't fall victim to the same fate as my local nest. I continued on and located the roosting mate in the usual Hemlock tree as I approached. I grabbed a few photos, and watched the other parent on the nearby nest for few minutes before heading towards the Eastern Screech Owl roost. I scored big there as well, and made it to work just in time! I also included a picture from the day before of the American Kestrel I usually find at Times Beach, just a little ways down the street on a light pole.
Finally! I was in class yesterday when my friend, Alec Humann shot me a text that the American Crows were mobbing in another tree near our Great-horned Owl nest. Finally found a day roost for the Great Horned Owl mate. Even though class lasted about a million hours after I received that text, I was able to hit the location and find our guy. I also noted a large portion of a Mallard wing hanging off the side of the nest where the mate was sitting diligently on the eggs. I guess it's no secret what these Owls are feeding on any more. A nice male taiga Merlin flew overhead and perched incredibly high in a distant tree while I was stalking around. I was able to track him down, but he was so high, and it was so gloomy that the pics came out horrible. Still a nice treat for me through my bins. I also had just enough time to run down to the Niagara River before work to look for a few Harlequin Ducks, but ended up with a Herring Gull instead. Time for the pics:
Swung through Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo NY yesterday to see if any strange ducks had landed in the creek. Nothing too far out of the ordinary. Greater Scaup, Bufflehead hen, Common, and Red-breasted Mergansers were the odd ducks out, so to speak. I saw my favorite juvenile Red-tailed Hawk try to land on a Squirrel and miss miserably. I only had enough time to snap one quick picture of it over the snow mound before it flew off in shame. The highlight of my trip was a little Sharp-shinned Hawk that flew in just as I was leaving and used the creek to take a bath. I've never seen a hawk do this in person so it was pretty cool. I was standing right over it on a bridge as it played around in the water and it really could't care less that I was there. Pretty awesome.
Headed out with my good friend, Alec Humann yesterday with two target birds in mind; Lapland Longspur and Northern Shrike. We failed to find either species despite an entire day of driving around Niagara County and beyond. The Northern Shrike continues to be my most challenging nemesis bird to date. I've put in so many hours looking for this carnivorous passerine and have been rewarded with nothing but dashed hopes. Ah well. It's going to be all that much better when I finally find it. We saw hundreds of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and a nice variety of raptors on our outing. Merlin, American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Short-eared Owl all made the raptor list. Not bad at all if I do say so myself.
I had a few minutes after class to stop into Forest lawn Cemetery and get up close with two very common, but beautiful birds.
I had only taken about 3 steps out of my front door when a big gray blur went flying by my face and landed on the street light in front of my house. I caught what I thought was a white terminal tail band but not much more because of the speed. I happened to have my camera right on my shoulder and pursued. Once I jogged up a little closer and saw the hawk perched on the pole I was able to identify it as Cooper's Hawk. Nothing gets me more excited than urban adapters. I usually have to make all sorts of special trips to better habitats for wildlife, so it really pleases me to see we haven't completely sterilized this concrete jungle I call home. The Coop flew down into a rectory parking lot across the street and I was able to take two nice id shots. No matter how many birds of prey I see, I just can't help but be blown away when I open the files and zoom into all their details. This neighborhood raptor looks particularly menacing. Accipiters are born with bright yellow eyes that turn red after the third, so this sub-adult Coop has those evil orange eyes you like to see on a raptor. It took a dive at some House Sparrow in the bushes there, but was unsuccessful in catching any food before it flew off deeper into the heart of Buffalo.
I figured since it was Superb Owl Sunday I would check in on the Great Horned Owl and look around for the day roost of the male. No luck there! While I continue to be completely ineffective at finding the male's hiding spot, I graciously award him the king of hide and seek award. This bird is good. I'll find him though. One day... one day. The female was on alert when I arrived because of all the traffic around the nest. I only stayed for about 3 minutes but I noticed her dozing her off when all the cars stopped going by. Glad she feels ok with me around.
It's Superb Owl Sunday! Make sure to check out the owl slide show I created by clicking this sentence. The weather has put a real damper on taking any sort of quality photos lately. I've been giving the Great Horned Owl as much space as possible, but I put her in my bins form afar and she is doing well. Here are the few shots I've managed in the last couple of days.
This last one was going to be of a Red-tailed Hawk with prey, but it flew off and left me with this stark reminder of how real it is out there. Mother nature is a beautifully cruel machine. Everyone is someone's dinner.