Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big January Lifer and Old Mother Goose

Light morph Rough-legged Hawk  (taken with my Canon SX30 IS on 35X zoom, hand held)
Some bird groups such as shorebirds, gulls and raptors can be challenging for an amateur to identify, especially if they are seen only in flight. Very slowly, I am becoming more confident in recognizing local hawks and falcons. On April 14, 2007 I had to ask for help to identify a Red-tailed Hawk and now I see them so commonly that I hardly take notice of them. Last Sunday a Coopers Hawk flew right above my head on its way to a bird feeder in a yard adjacent to the church parking lot. You can be sure it was not looking for sunflower seeds.

Red-shouldered Hawk
At this time of year there are many Rough-legged Hawks in the farmland north of our city. During the recent Christmas Bird Count they outnumbered Red-tailed Hawks. They are easy to identify in flight as their black "bracelet" bands stand out under their wings. Northern Harriers are readily found this year too with their distinctive flight pattern and black wing tips. Red-shouldered Hawks are locally uncommon but one bird is very consistent in its winter territory which is in an accessible location by foot and car.

Red-tailed Hawk
The old lift bridge at the entrance to Hamilton Harbour has been home to Peregrine Falcons for some time. I have stopped here often hoping to see one, but without success. Last Sunday I was disappointed that the parking lot near the canal was closed and I took another trail along the lake front instead.

Burlington Lift Bridge
As I was looking for ducks, I watched a Peregrine Falcon fly off the bridge and catch a pigeon in mid air in easy viewing distance. It then flew back to the bridge to the tower and proceeded to eat its lunch. I don't think I would have seen it if I didn't see it land as it looked like a small dot on the big steel structure. I took the picture below with full digital zoom.

Peregrine Falcon (life bird) with a fresh Pigeon
I spent another hour or more in the area and saw one more kill. Dozens of hapless pigeons sit on the same bridge lined up like bar-b-qued chickens at a supermarket take-out. The Peregrine pair do not have to go far for food and have an ideal location for raising their young each spring. 

On a much less regal note...
I saw this fat goose near the shore and hoped that was an unusual wild species. However, it could be a domestic goose gone wild as it does not resemble anything in my bird guide. Does anyone know for sure? I have not counted it in my total yet.


  1. You got some excellent shots. Especially that full zoom on the Peregrine.

  2. Wow, your bird shots are wonderful!! And the birds so gorgeous... it's amazing what beauties inhabit our earth!

  3. WOW Ruth... how exciting that you got to see the Peregrine hunting!! Wonderful shots, all!!

  4. Great informative post. I'm pretty good at spotting the red tails, turkey vultures of course and I'd recognize a peregrine falcon but the rest would stump me. I'm not a birder but I like watching the raptors fly.

    I saw my first Bald Eagle over the speed river between Cambridge and Guelph two weekends ago. It was amazing! I knew they were around but this was my first spotting. It soared like nothing I've seen before.

  5. That first shot of the hawk is absolutely magnificent! The rest are great too, but I particularly liked that first one.
    Peregrine falcons remind me of old medieval stories.

    Hope somebody can identify the goose for you.

  6. No help on the goose.

    I am drawn to peregrines--we have had a bird camera on a tall building where peregrines decided to set up house-keeping. When the bird camera first went on line, I confess to spending a lot of time watching the peregrines. They laid their eggs, which then hatched. And I watched. I watched when the eyasses fledged.

    Enjoyed the photos of various raptors.

  7. I once saw a raptor of some kind fly over a lake carrying a fish. It wasn't very far away. I think we all enjoyed the sight except for the poor fish.

  8. Wonderful bird photographs. And what a wonderful time you must have had watching them.

  9. we have peregrines here also

  10. Congratulations on the lifer! That top photo is a terrific shot of a beautiful RL-Hawk.I am impressed that you can take a hand held shot at that high zoom and have it come out clear.I know you must have IS but still, I don't think I could take a photo like that without a tripod or bracing against a tree.-Well done!

  11. Thanks for your comments. Larry, the light was excellent from the sun and reflection on the snow so the shutter speed was very fast. I was in the car and leaning against the door which gave me extra stability. But the IS in this lastest camera is impressive.


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