Wednesday, September 22, 2010

More than just hawks...

Yesterday I described hawkwatching as something similar to a “big sit,” a term that is likely familiar only to birders. Essentially, a big sit is when people count or list all birds they see from a single spot over the course of a day or at least several hours.

Hawkwatchers rarely limit themselves only to looking at hawks, at least in my experience. Birds of any stripe or plumage are fair game, as are animals, dragonflies, assorted bugs and airplanes. People even compare cloud formations, though I’ve only seen that when the birding was really, really slow.

So hawkwatching for me is also a good way to see what other birds are flying around, in addition to the hawks. At Waggoner’s Gap this weekend, black and turkey vultures were both in good supply, as were ravens, one of my favorite birds. Assorted woodpeckers were also common—pileated was seen twice, and flickers and downys were also regulars.

My bad bird photo today actually has a woodpecker in it if you look closely. It’s a juvenile red-headed woodpecker. I’d never seen the juvenile before and didn’t realize their heads are black or dark gray. The only thing that even crossed my mind at the time I saw it was an acorn woodpecker, a western species, and I knew this wasn’t that. Fortunately, Waggoner’s Gap counter once had a pair of these birds nesting in his backyard and that pair’s three fledglings provided him amble opportunity to know what the young birds look like. For me, seeing this uncommon species in a plumage I’d never seen before was a rare treat.

Birds aren’t the only visitors to the hawkwatch. The chipmunk is a common visitor, and a sunning garter snake provided some fun. A close-flying ultra-light aircraft, chugging over the top of the ridge was also worth a wave and a look through the binoculars.


jeannette said...

I am way too impatient to watch birds, but I think people like you, because there's where all the pics of birds come from that I (might) paint:)

Cathy said...

I'm surprise that ultralight didn't scare the hawks away. Then again, it might been fun watching a hawk attack it.

Hey,you never know.

Interesting that red headed woodpecker has a black or grey when it was young. it must look interesting when the red feathers come in.

Carolyn H said...

Cathy: The ultra light was pretty slow and wasn't around all that long. if the hawks didn't like it, they would just fly around, but I didn't see any at the time the ultralight was flying over top of the mountain.

Carolyn H


Carolyn H said...

Jeannette, It's true that hawkwatching requires some patience, certainly more than birding. Some birders simply exhaust me. If they don't see something within a few seconds, they are off and some place else looking for more.