Friday, October 14, 2016

Hook Mountain Hawk Watch

     I was really happy to work last weekend- during all that crummy weather, to earn a day off during the week. Weekdays are my favorite time to treat myself to the outdoors, because everyone is at work and it is only that much more quiet!
     I have made a trip to Hook Mountain in Nyack, NY an annual outing over the last 2 years. I have throughly enjoyed not only the birds but the people I meet and get to know in the hours spent at the summit. I saw some familiar faces, that I remembered from my last visits and outings like these are where birding can be a a social event. We do a lot of discussing about birds, wildlife, nature, and our own lives.
     With clear skies today was challenging, and my wind burnt face reminds me of how I should have had another layer on, but I still had a really great time and I think the photos will support that. Enjoy the sights!
Following the yellow trail, I made my way up to the top of the hook from Rt 9W. It is a steep climb, but fairly quick, if you have the stamina.
We were counting migratory raptors. Local birds, residents, did not count. So redtails were constant distractions, there were 4 individuals hovering and hunting over the side of the mountain. The juvenile birds were extra curious and brave.
With winds in their favor, the red tails didn't even have to flap, enabling them to soar in place, allowing them to scout the landscape for food and foes. The juvenile birds are easy to tell apart from the adults, they still have banded tails, instead of the rusty red colored tails of the adults.
They looked at us a lot too.
Who is watching who? While I have to zoom and crop these images to see their faces clearly, they can just do that with their eyes from where they were in the air.
A smooth sailing bird, in place just peering at Rockland Lake Park below.
And we tried to count other things.... like Cooper's (shown) and Sharp-Shinned Hawks.
View of Cooper's (from above) again.
And more of these little trouble makers...
A cropped image of the head-on view shown below.
They flew in very close range to us, sometimes just past our heads- mostly aiming for the dummy owl, propped up to draw raptors towards the mountain. The red tails at one point actually hit the owl with their feet, making a thud that spun the owl around on the stick it sits up on. 
Their close range also made for good photo opportunities.
If we were lucky we could have views like this- a sharp-shinned hawk. The solid blue sky makes spotting hard, and that phrase "out of the blue," I really think this is where it came from. Without any contrast some birds barely appeared, just as the flew past us, I am sure we missed many. 
A large migrating group of brant flew past, a very cool sight!
Turkey and black vultures were common all around the mountain, but often in their kettles we spied other birds, like osprey, red-shouldered hawks, bald eagles, and accipitors.