18 Apr 2011

Surprised by a Sharp-shinned Hawk

When I initially saw this hawk today, I thought with glee that the Cooper's hawks that I photographed so often last summer had returned.  In fact they have.  It was the Cooper's voice that got my attention and it was the Cooper's hawk that I chased through the little forest that I visit quite regularly in my neighborhood.  But the Cooper's hawk eluded me for quite some time, while this one was perched, quite unconcerned, high up in a tree.  When I spotted her, I thought she had matured over the winter and come into her adult colors. Or was a different individual of the same species.  As I have yet to see a mature Cooper's hawk, I was delighted by the prospect.  
Sharp-shinned Hawk Female
When I got home and had a good look at my photo's however, I was nagged by the fact that something about this hawk was quite different.   Then I recalled seeing a Sharp shinned Hawk a couple of years ago and mistaking it for a Robin.  So I searched the web for info on the Sharp shinned Hawk and was both surprised and thrilled to discover that what I had on camera this time, was indeed a Sharp Shinned Hawk.  Since this  hawk was quite a bit bigger than a Robin, I concluded it must be a female of the species, which is quite naturally twice the size of the male.

sharp-shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper's Hawks are often confused and not only due to the fact that their adult coloring is virtually identical.  The female Sharp-shinned Hawk is almost the same size as the male Cooper's hawk.  Both species have red eyes when mature and both have a gray head.  To separate the  two species look for round eyes, a squared tail and broad chest which are characteristic of the Sharp-shinned hawk.


14 Apr 2011

Raptors large and small

It is snowing out!  I still can't believe it, not when it is the middle of April.  While I was dreaming of sunshine to come, soon I hope, I thought I would distract myself from snowfall by going through the pictures I gathered last year on bird watch. Here are just a few:

Red Tailed  Hawk Juvenile
Red Tailed Hawk
The Red Tailed Hawk is a large member of the Buteo family of hawks which are broad-winged hawks, but not to be confused with the Broadwing Hawk which is another species of hawk entirely.

Cooper's Hawk Juv
Cooper's Hawk Juvenile

The Cooper's hawk is a member of the Accipiter family of hawks and is primarily a forest hawk.  You will not see this small hawk about in the open sky, unless it is flushed out by another predator or during migration.

Prairie Hawk at top
Prairie Hawk
The Prairie Hawk is actually one of the smaller members of the Falcon family of hawks and, as the name suggests, it's habitat is the Prairies.

Osprey with catch

The Osprey, aka fish eagle, has been given it's own classification as far as raptor families go.  It's family name is Pandionidae.  It was given it's own classification because it has developed physical characteristics and behavior uniquely suited to it's exclusive diet of fish.  Opreys however are not eagles.

Hawks, Falcons, Eagles, and Osprey are all raptors.  A raptor is by definition a bird of prey, or any bird that catches and kills prey with it's feet.  Did you know that Owls are also considered to be raptors?


9 Apr 2011

Birwatch Holiday Miami

A couple of years ago I went on holiday with my mom on a Caribbean
cruise. We had, unfortunately, only an overnight stay at a hotel in Miami before boarding the cruise ship about mid-morning.  Even so, quite naturally my camera equipment was readily at hand the entire time, and since I am so totally focused on birds, it goes to follow that I took this brief opportunity to take as many photographs as I could of any birds and wildlife that I saw.  The following photos represent just a few.

Boat  tailed Grackle Male
Boat tailed Grackle  perched
Boat tailed Grackle Female
Eurasian Dove
Dove Eurasian
Brown Pelican
Egret under the docks
Frigate Bird

If I ever get the opportunity, I would like to spend a week or so in Miami to do a lot more bird watching.



5 Apr 2011

Merlin: AKA Bullet Hawk

This little Falcon, a Merlin, apparently resides in my neighborhood. I saw it a couple of times last year, but since it was migration season at the time and I never managed to get a photo of it, I didn't think about it much beyond my joy in seeing it.  I have seen it at least once or twice a week in the last few months, but the only reason I was able to get these beautiful photos was because it was in distress, and could be heard quite distinctly, even through my kitchen window.  I do not know if the bird was in distress because it was injured or because another predator had stolen it's prey, but it's shrieks were laud and persistent.  So, I threw on my coat and shoes, grabbed the camera and just followed it's voice.

Merlin Perched

If you click on the first picture, you will see that the Merlin clearly has blood on it belly, but it flew just fine.  If it was injured, the injury was obviously minor.

Merlin taking off
Merlin in flight

The Merlin is known by the alias Bullet Hawk, due to it's bullet like speed when it attacks it's prey, which is usually all unsuspecting.   In fact the Merlin's speed makes it difficult to capture on camera without a fast shutter speed.   The Merlin's other name is Pigeon Hawk, as it will not hesitate to go after larger prey, such as Pigeons which are bigger than the falcon itself.  No doubt this is why it was a favorite for keeping by falconers.

To give you an idea just how fast this bird is check out the photo below, which I took a couple of years ago.

Merlin speed of a bullet


3 Apr 2011

Wildlife portrait April

I sometimes like to play with my photos to make the featured wildlife, or bird species stand out and show the unique beauty of the species.

Golden Eyed Duck

2 Apr 2011

Sweet little Downy Woodpecker

It has been sunny and warm for the past few days and the snow is finally beginning to melt away.  In other words it's starting to feel like spring.  As a result I couldn't wait to get outside with my camera.  Not many birds have come back yet from the south, however I did manage to get some wonderful shots of this Downy Woodpecker this morning.   I even got one of this bird next to a White-breasted Nuthatch to show just how small this woodpecker truly is.

Heads up
Red cap displayed
Totally relaxed
White breasted Nuthatch and Downy Woodpecker
Checking me out

Almost time to go

I hope you enjoy these pictures,