Fall for Raptors

I’ve been seeing a large number of raptors lately, from American Kestrels to Bald Eagles. This past Wednesday, I drove around looking for raptors and enjoying the colours of fall. The day was very overcast and cool, but I saw some top-quality birds!

This American Kestrel had been hunting around our house for the past few days, finally perching long enough for me to get a photo. The photos are not the best quality, but I love the colours of the kestrel and the trees behind it,IMG_9757IMG_9755

I barely got out of the truck, opting to park on the side of the road most of the time. I live in an area where the county roads have a good deal of traffic at harvest time — combines, swathers, grain trucks, pickup trucks going to town for parts. But the roads are quiet on rainy days when farmers are at home waiting for the fields and grain to dry.

Whether rural roads are quiet or busy, I always park in as much of the ditch as I can when birding with a vehicle, and I never park on the crest of the hill. If I’m driving and see a bird sitting close to the road, I check the rearview mirror to make sure it’s safe to pull over.

Our neighbours often stop to check on me when I’m watching something from the truck, just to make sure I’m not having any trouble. Everyone knows by now that I’m birding/photographing birds, but it’s a very nice gesture and I appreciate the stop very much.

I love birding by vehicle because you can get fairly close to some birds. Ducks and geese are very cautious at this time of year, so watching birds from the truck gives me more of a chance to look at them. I took our new truck as it’s very quiet, excellent on fuel, and has ample room for my scope, two cameras, and binoculars in the front seat.

A Blue-winged Teal,IMG_9761

This summer, the American White Pelicans frequented the slough (pond) across the road. There was only one this time, accompanied by Black-bellied Plovers, Long-billed Dowitchers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Mallards, Gadwalls, teals, Northern Shovelers, an adult Bald Eagle; Snow, Greater White-fronted, and Canada Geese; Ring-billed Gulls, and Sandhill Cranes.

The American White Pelican and a Ring-billed Gull,IMG_9763

In the willows along the road were White-crowned, White-throated, and Clay-coloured Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The birds were very difficult to photograph as they stayed hidden in the branches, like this White-crowned Sparrow,IMG_9774

I left the slough and headed north. A Blue Jay flew out of a neighbour’s yard and there was a Northern Goshawk sitting in a dead tree just up the hill. I was disappointed I didn’t get a photo of the goshawk, but just then, a Great-horned Owl landed in the tree in front of me.

The owl was uncomfortable with my presence so it took off. Fortunately, it landed nearby in the slough just off the road.

The Great-horned Owl flying away,IMG_9775

I quietly got out of the truck and snuck around the slough and got these photos — my best yet of the species!IMG_9782IMG_9784

After five minutes, the owl flew away, scaring a pair of Lesser Yellowlegs on take off,IMG_9789

The most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a Eurasian-collared Dove that flew out of the willows. At first, I though the dove was a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but then it came into view. I’ve never seen this species before, but their range is moving northward in Alberta so I might be seeing more of theses doves in the future.IMG_9791

The migrating geese enjoy feeding on the combined grain fields. I spent 15 minutes taking pictures with my new camera,DSC_0782DSC_0798

The building on the hill is Chatsworth School, a one-room school house between 1917 – 1953 for all the children in the area,DSC_0816DSC_0817

Playing with the exposure a little bit,DSC_0821

The sun was shining through the clouds,DSC_0829

After an hour and a half, I started heading back home and was passing by our wheat field. On a six-acre section of the field, we’re growing Red Fife Wheat, the oldest variety of wheat in Canada, originally from the Ukraine. This Red-tailed Hawk was sitting in the poplars along the field and there was a Merlin on a fence post.

Red-tailed Hawk,IMG_9803

I took these photos of the Merlin with my Nikon D610 with the 70-200mm lens. I cropped them just a bit,

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All the raptor species I saw on my drive: American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Great-horned Owl, Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Harrier.

Hawk Platform

About five years ago my dad put up a a 32-foot tall hawk platform on our farm, hoping to encourage the Red-tailed Hawks in the area to nest there, but the hawks still haven’t shown any interest. For the past two years we’ve put sticks on the platform to help entice the hawks, maybe this will be the year?

This past Sunday, we added some more nesting material to the platform, using our Skytrak telehandler. Here I am by the platform,

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Hawks do a much better job of arranging the sticks than I do, but it’s just to get them interested and (hopefully!) they can finish the job,

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Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for Feathers on Friday, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I will add a link to my post.

Here is a picture I took this afternoon of a beautiful Red-tailed Hawk. I thought that it would be perfect for Feathers on Friday,

New peregrine falcon cam in Alberta

Next week there will be a new peregrine falcon camera ready to go in Edmonton, Alberta. You can read about it here at the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) website. The nest and the camera are on the top of the city’s Bell (Telephone) Tower building, and the camera is sponsored by  Bell Mobility and Snap Security.

The bird is a female known only as E4.  She was born and raised on a natural sandstone cliff on the Red Deer River in the Summer of 2002. She has been nesting at the Bell Tower in downtown Edmonton since 2004.

You can read more about saving the peregrines in Alberta in this wonderful article, “The Last Peregrine” by Gordon Court, from Conservation Magazine.


Some other bird/nest cams I like:

Decorah Eagles: the pair of eagles have three chicks, who are getting ready for their first flight

Ellie and Albert, the pair of great-horned owls who made a nest at the Ellis Bird Farm (near Red Deer, Alberta, Canada)

Bobby and Violet, a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks in New York City. I have been watching this cam very diligently when I have the time.

Phoebe, an Allen hummingbird, with one chick who seems much to big for its nest!