Thursday, February 11, 2010

Northern Hawk-Owl

Sunday, February 7. After seeing reports over the past several weeks of the two Northern Hawk-Owls wintering in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, I decided to check out the bird in Ferdinand. Arriving at about noon and parking my vehicle at the pull-off on Route 105 I only had to walk 30 yards or so on the snowmobile trail before spotting the owl perched low in a small tree next to the railroad tracks. Not having my camera with me I walked back to the vehicle to get it and in the meantime several snowmobiles sped past the bird causing it take flight and land at the very top of a tall spruce located a bit further down the trail and within a short distance of the Nulhegan River. Range, sight angle and lighting were not the best for digiscoping, but then the owl made a bee line for the shoulder of the tracks setting on the snow only briefly before flying to a nearby dead snag tree. There, I was able to snap off a few shots, two of which I have posted here. I suspected the owl possibly saw a potential meal and made an attempt to get it, but with binocs to my eyes as it flew to and sat in the snag I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Not until I got back home, downloaded the photos and was going through the images did I notice the owl indeed had a successful hunt. In the photo below you will see the rear half of a vole visibly in its talons. That was certainly an unexpected find making the three hour drive to northern Vermont all the more rewarding.

The owl is east of Island Pond and 2.5 miles further east of the John Boyland State Airport on Route 105. A snowmobile crosses the highway at a large pull-off on the north side of the road.

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