Thursday, February 26, 2015

Weathersfield Snowy Owl

This Snowy Owl, perched on the roof of the barn at Wellwood Orchard, was discovered and posted on eBird by a local birder last Sunday, February 23.  Based on plumage characteristics described by Kevin McGowan of The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, this individual appears to be a male.  Note the overall whiteness of the bird and relative scarcity of the dark markings on its back.  The markings are also thin or narrow.  And, the dark markings on the tail are also thin and do not merge forming complete or nearly complete bars.  Although not visible in the photo, the unmarked white bib of male owls is usually more extensive than that shown by females.


As of today the owl was still present on the barn and easily observable from Wellwood Orchard Road.  Birders should not venture onto orchard property and should refrain from activities that might agitate or distress the bird.  After last winter's irruption of Snowy Owls south of Canada, including one bird that was present in Springfield, VT, getting another opportunity to view this impressive species is a real treat.  Irruptions into New England are reported to occur every 3 to 6 years or so.  For more information on Snowy Owl invasions check out the eBird article "The Winter of The Snowy Owl" which was posted February 2, 2012.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Springfield Red-shouldered Hawk

Shortly before 8:00 AM on Thursday, February 19 during my morning commute to work a hawk perched in a dead tree next to the Black River in Springfield, VT caught my attention.  Pulling to the roadside and peering through binoculars at the bird on the opposite side of the river it was apparent this was not one  our common wintering raptors (i.e. Red-tailed, Cooper's or Sharp-shinned hawks) but rather a Red-shouldered Hawk.  Several photos were taken with my work camera, but all were of poor quality.  Hoping the hawk would stay around long enough for a second photo op, the next morning I came prepared with my personal camera but the bird was nowhere to be seen.  Disappointing but to be expected.

But then, I had no expectation of seeing the bird this morning perched in a tree next to the river nearly three miles downriver from where it was first seen.   A handsome bird and cooperative photo subject.

Whether or not this bird has been overwintering in the general area or is an early spring migrant is anybody's guess.  According to the Vermont Bird Records Committee the median spring arrival date for Red-shouldered Hawk is the third week of March, so this sighting is a full month ahead of schedule, more or less.  On the other hand, there has been a resident Red-shouldered Hawk spending the past several winters at Woodside Park in Essex, VT.