Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Great Backyard Bird Count: Day 2 of 4 - Snipe!

The Great Backyard Bird Count Weekend Continues!
     After a successful day yesterday, finding lots of bald eagles, I was not hoping for much today, but in just an hour and a half at Marine Park I saw 21 species, 1 of which being a lifer, and of all 21 species, 4 were a few different types of raptors.
     Today was much warmer than yesterday, but grey skies threatened with snow, which it did end up snowing when I left. Much of the water was frozen, with a few open spots that almost all had waterfowl in. The raptors were all actively hunting, smaller birds were foraging in secret, trying not to be spotted, and the waterfowl were busy flying in or moving out to another area.

This rough-legged hawk was actively looking for food over the field of grasses and reeds on the east side of the Salt Marsh Nature Center. This bird did a lot of hovering and soaring in place, scanning and then moving over a little bit only to repeat, until he or she looked over the whole field, and would then repeat back where it began.
How to tell the difference between your hawks? We mostly are used to seeing red tails, red tails do not have such a dark band across their belly like this bird does, which is a typical field mark for rough-legged hawks. Red tail hawks also would sport a red tail (as an adult) or a brown, barred tail (as a juvenile). The red tails would also not have those dark patches at what is equivalent to their wrist.
I think we might be observing each other. Another rough-legged hawk was just across the water over an old landfill, also hunting, and was later joined by this bird. Once this bird left its current position over the field I was hiking along, a red tail hawk immediately filled the niche and began hunting for itself.
Savannah sparrows, song sparrows, and some American tree sparrows laid low in the grasses to hide and feed.
An American tree sparrow cautiously comes out onto the trail.
An American Kestrel scored a meal of a rodent. These birds have amazing vision and, like most birds, have the ability to see into the ultraviolet spectrum. The ability to do this helps them hunt, as rodent urine reflects UV light, so these birds can follow a rodent trail (because they mark their territories with urine) to the trail maker.
Gangway! Comin' through! Canadian geese make a splash into one of the few areas of open water. 
Almost didn't see this killdeer and its conspecific until I heard them give their "Deer-deer-deer" call. 
A good way to end my adventure today- a Wilson's snipe! This bird has been continuing in this area since early February. I was glad to have spotted and photographed him. This bird is a lifer for me and will get a mark in my field guide, except my field guide is so old, this bird was not considered a separate species from the common snipe, until 2003. My parents gave me my field guide in 1997. I think I will have to tape a photo of him in and check him off!