Archive for the 'Birds of Prey' Category

Jan 05 2017

Owls Come A’Courting

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great-horned owl, hooting (photo by Chuck Tague)

On Throw Back Thursday:

January's the month when great horned owls court and nest in southwestern Pennsylvania.  If you hear them hooting, they're planning to nest in your neighborhood.

Read more about their courtship and hear them hooting in this vintage article from 2010: Whoooo Said That?

 

p.s. Listen in South Oakland near the Anderson Bridge. The pair in Schenley Park will let you know they're there.  🙂

(photo by Chuck Tague.  The owl’s white throat feathers are showing because he’s hooting.)

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Jan 04 2017

Bald Eagle Hatchling in Florida

Published by under Birds of Prey

Screenshot from Southwest Florida eaglecam

Screenshot from Southwest Florida Live Eaglecam

Are you anxious for bald eagle season to get underway in Pittsburgh?   Can't wait to watch baby eagles on camera?  Get a jump on the season at the Southwest Florida Eaglecam.

Bald eagles M15 and Harriet are nesting in Fort Myers, Florida in view of three eaglecams.  This year Harriet laid two eggs and one hatched on December 31.  Their eaglet is already growing.

Click here or on the image above to watch M15, Harriet and eaglet E9.  Will Harriet's second egg hatch?  We'll have to wait and see.

 

p.s. Thanks to Tom Balistreri (@tombalist) for alerting me to this happy event.

(screenshot from Southwest Florida Live Eagle Cam sponsored by Dick Pritchett Real Estate.  Click on the screenshot to watch the eaglecam.)

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Nov 25 2016

Merlins This Month At Schenley Park

More than a decade ago four merlins used to hang out at Schenley Park Golf Course every winter.  They were often seen at dusk in the area near the club house just before they flew to roost.  For a few years they were reliable every winter and then they were gone ... until now.

Merlins (Falco columbarius) are small falcons that eat birds for a living, though they choose smaller prey than peregrines do.  You could mistake one for an immature peregrine except for this:  Merlins are smaller and darker, their malar stripes are less pronounced, and they are very fast in level flight, rapidly pumping their wings.

Most merlins nest in Canada and migrate south with their prey.  Some go as far as South America.  Others stay in the southern U.S. and a few, very few, spend the winter in southwestern Pennsylvania.

This month two merlins came back to Schenley Park.  Just like those a decade ago, these birds prefer perches with long views in every direction.  You can find them at dawn or dusk at the highest elevation of the golf course near Darlington Road at Schenley Drive. They perch on treetops or dead snags near hole #2 and the fairways of holes #3 and #4.

If you've never seen a merlin, watch this video of a falconer's merlin on the hunt to get an idea of their size and flight style.

 

p.s.  If you go look for the merlins, keep in mind that this is a golf course.  You must stay out of the way of golfers and not tread on the tees and greens!  Watch from the sidelines.

(video by Primitive Tim on YouTube)

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Nov 21 2016

Bald Eagle Days

Published by under Birds of Prey

Bald Eagle at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle watching the parking lot, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

This month the Hays bald eagles are at home in Pittsburgh but not nearly as easy to find as they will be during the nesting season. If you need an "eagle fix" make a trip to Conowingo Dam in Darlington, Maryland, just south of the PA border on the Susquehanna River.  The dam's tail waters attract hundreds of bald eagles in November.

To celebrate the eagles locals hold an annual event called Conowingo Eagle Day.  This year it was on Saturday November 12 and was so well attended that sponsors had to run a shuttle bus to the viewing site.

Annette and Gerry Devinney went to Conowingo Eagle Day and, yes, the eagles were spectacular.  Annette brought back these photos.

Bald eagle with fish at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle carrying a fish at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Three bald eagles, chasing at Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

Two immature bald eagles chase an adult, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Bald eagle at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Bald eagle fishing in flight, Conowingo, Nov 2016 (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Bald eagle at Conowingo (photo by Annette Devinney)

Another drag of the talons. Did he get it? (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

Caught it! (photo by Annette Devinney)

Caught it! (photo by Annette Devinney)

 

This year's Eagle Day is over and the huge crowds are gone, but the eagles are still at Conowingo for a couple of weeks.  If you have the time, it's worth a November trip to see them on the Susquehanna.  Here's a map.

Thank you, Annette for sharing your photos.

 

p.s. If you don't know Annette Devinney, she's the heart of Pittsburgh's bald eagle community. Annette knows a lot about bald eagles, she takes gorgeous photographs, and she knows everyone. Every August Annette throws a big picnic reunion for Pittsburgh's bald eagle fans.  Annette and her husband Gerry travel far and wide keeping track of the area's eagles.  You'll find them at the Hays Eagle Viewing Site in the months ahead.  See her photos on Facebook.

(photos by Annette Devinney)

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Nov 05 2016

Some Mouse Is Gonna Die

Red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front (photo by Steve Gosser)

Red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front (photo by Steve Gosser)

Steve Gosser captured this red-tailed hawk on the hunt at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch last week.

He wrote on Facebook:

While seeing this isn't that scary for us, if you're a little mouse seeing this would be terrifying. Caught this Red-tailed doing a dive at the hawk watch today.

Some mouse is going to die of fright ... if nothing else.

 

For more cool photos, see Steve Gosser's website at gosserphotos.com

(photo by Steve Gosser)

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Nov 03 2016

Golden Day

Golden eagle flies past the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle flies past the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

If you want to see golden eagles, now's the time to visit the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch in Cairnbrook, PA.  Five of us made the trip last Tuesday, November 1, and we weren't disappointed.  It was a 20-golden day.

Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) migrate through Pennsylvania from late October through the end of November leaving their breeding grounds in northern Canada for wintering sites in the Appalachians from West Virginia to North Carolina.

Goldens fly almost daily during that period but you won't see them at the Allegheny Front unless the wind has an eastward component that pushes them toward the Watch site.  Tuesday's forecast called for a south-southeast wind.  Excellent!

Thanks to Donna Foyle and Anthony (Tony) Bruno I can show you what we saw.

Upon arrival the golden eagle statue greeted us at the parking lot.

Statue of the Golden Eagle at Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Statue of the Golden Eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Walking from the parking area to the mountain edge we could see it was hazy. Though everyone wasn't present at the same time, the Hawk Watch had 11 observers and 55 visitors that day.

Approaching the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

Approaching the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo by Donna Foyle)

We all faced north, watching for raptors.  Many red-tailed and sharp shinned hawks flew by since this is the height of their migration, too.

Watching for the next golden eagle, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Watching for the next golden eagle at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Sharp shins, small as they are, love to attack red-tailed hawks when they get the chance.  Donna Foyle captured the action as this "sharpie" forced a juvenile red-tail to dive out of his way.

Sharp-shinned hawk attacks a red-tailed hawk on migration, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Sharp-shinned hawk attacks a red-tailed hawk on migration, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

 

And there were golden eagles.

This gorgeous bird flew past low enough for us to see his golden head and nape.  (Great shot, Tony!)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

The white crescent under the wing is a sign that this golden eagle is immature.

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

 

And yes, it's odd for so many humans to sit on the edge of a mountain. This eagle checked us out as he flew by.  "What are all those humans doing?"

Golden eagle looks at the all the people at the Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

Golden eagle looks at the all the people at the Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo by Anthony Bruno)

 

We had a great day at the Allegheny Front ... and we happened to leave before the last 10 eagles flew by.  (Golden eagles are famous for migrating in the last hour before sunset.)

Karyn, Donna, me, Geralyn and Kathy, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Happy Hawk Watchers: Karyn Delaney, Donna Foyle, Kate St. John, Geralyn Pundzak, Kathy Miller, Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 1 Nov 2016 (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Visit the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch soon to see the golden eagles.

Directions and information: Allegheny Front Hawk Watch profile at hawkcount.org.

Before you go!  Check the wind forecast at Weather Underground, Central City, PA forecast, scroll down to the 10-day forecast and choose the "Table" tab, then click on the day you're planning to visit for the hourly wind forecast.  Remember that a southeast wind is good.  A northeast or east wind will bring fog.

 

(photos by Anthony Bruno and Donna Foyle. See the photo captions for credits)

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Oct 28 2016

Three Owls Triple The Fun

Kate St. John holding a banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

Kate St. John holding a just-banded northern saw-whet owl, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Doug Cunzolo)

If you've never seen a northern saw-whet owl, now's the time to visit Pittsburgh's Project Owlnet!

Bob Mulvihill of the National Aviary has been banding them at Sewickley Heights Park since 2013.  Three years of statistics indicate that the best nights for northern saw-whets are dark evenings with a north wind in late October so I went out there last Wednesday, October 26.

Bob sets up the mist nets and "toot" speakers at dusk. Placed near the nets, the speakers play the owls' own tooting sound to attract them. Helpers and spectators wait at the picnic tables for the periodic net checks.

I arrived late -- at 10:00pm -- and heard that I'd just missed an owl.  Oh no!  Would there be more?

At 10:15 the banding helpers came back with TWO owls.  There's one in the white bag in Bob's hand.

Bob Mulvihill at the owlbanding picnic table. There's a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

Bob Mulvihill at the owl banding picnic table. There's a northern saw-whet in the white bag (photo by Donna Foyle)

The owls are very calm in the hand. Notice the feathers on her eyelids.  (All the owls are female.)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

Bob examines a northern saw-whet owl prior to banding (photo by Kate St. John)

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Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl being examined before banding (photo by Donna Foyle)

These talons are needle sharp for catching mice.

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. Those talons are needle sharp! (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet leg and talons. (photo by Donna Foyle)

Receiving her band...

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl's leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob Mulvihill applies a band to a northern saw-whet owl's leg (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob spreads the bird's wing to examine the color of her feathers.  The combination of newer and older feathers indicates her age.

Bob spreads the owl's wing to examine the color of the wing feathers and determine its age (photo by Kathy Miller)

Bob examines the owl's wing (photo by Kathy Miller)

Northern saw-whets like to be scratched on the head. They close their eyes when you do it.

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl in the hand (photo by Donna Foyle)

After the birds are banded, we get to see them up close.  So soft!

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

Kate St. John pets a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Barb Griffith)

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Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Donna Foyle pets the owl (photo courtesy Donna Foyle)

Two owls at once!

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

Two! northern saw-whet owls (photo by Donna Foyle)

A close look ...

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Donna Foyle)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Up close with a northern saw-whet owl (photo by Kate St. John)

Happy owl with closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Happy owl, closed eyes (photo by Kate St.John)

Three owls are triple the fun!

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

Northern saw-whet owl at banding, 26 Oct 2016 (photo by Donna Foyle)

 

Want to see these owls up close?

Project Owlnet continues on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, sunset to midnight, through December 3.  Be sure to check the details here before you go.  Weather is a factor!

 

(photos by Doug Cunzolo, Donna Foyle, Kathy Miller, Barb Griffith and Kate St. John)

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Aug 19 2016

Follow The Sound And You Might Find …

This broad-winged hawk was hidden until the songbirds gave him away.

If you hear birds making a ruckus in late August and September, look for what's upsetting them.  It might be a broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) stopping by on migration.

 

p.s. Broad-winged hawks are forest dwellers, the same bulky shape as red-tailed hawks but smaller and not often seen near people.

(video by caroltlw on YouTube)

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Aug 18 2016

Backyard Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk on Solomon's deck (photo by Michael Solomon)

Red-tailed Hawk on Solomon's deck (photo by Michael Solomon)

On Throw Back Thursday:

If there's a bulky hawk in your backyard that ignores you like this, I bet I can identify it without ever seeing it.  In western Pennsylvania, I'm 90% sure it's a juvenile red-tailed hawk.

Young red-tailed hawks are so focused that they tune us out.  Read about this backyard bird in the 2009 article:

Single Mindedness

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Aug 04 2016

Today Is International Owl Awareness Day

Published by under Birds of Prey

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Great horned owl mother and nestling, Florida 2010 (photo by Chuck Tague)

Nesting season is over but it's nice to look back at this mother great horned owl and her nestling. Today is their special day.

August 4 is International Owl Awareness Day, an annual celebration of owls.  To get you in the mood, here's a quick video that promoted last year's event at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.

 

And here are some of today's worldwide International Owl Awareness events:

Whooooo knew!   🙂

 

(photo by Chuck Tague, video from the Oregon Zoo)

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