Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blue Sky Birding

Becker was anxious for a walk this morning, so I set aside the laundry basket and away we went. For the first time in quite a while, I took binoculars instead of a camera and I was rewarded with a rather respectable series of bird sightings.

The draw was especially active this morning. First of all I noticed a ruby-crowned kinglet, followed shortly by a yellow-rumped warbler and an orange-crowned warbler (or two or three). As I was following their fluttering from tree branch to tree branch, I noticed a big "something or other" fly in behind them - when I focused on the movement there, it turned out to be a pair of flickers.

Blue jays flew in and out several times, and I kept hearing cardinals peeping, but didn't actually see one until I was walking back to the house. Two other woodpeckers came by to say hello, a male red-bellied and a female downy. Several chickadees joined in the activity for a while...

...but the most interesting sighting was a hawk "doing lazy circles in the sky." As I watched it, I was positive that it was an accipiter - probably a Cooper's based on size - despite behavior that was unusual for the species. I looked for a white patch at the base of the tail and didn't see it, but I did note that the head seemed small in proportion to the body and the tail was fairly square with a wide terminal black band tipped with white and smaller bands towards the body.

Getting back to the kitchen and looking in my guidebook, I'm now thoroughly unsure of which of 3 species it was: the proportionate head size and tail shape was sharp-shinned hawk, the size and lack of white rump patch was Cooper's hawk, and the behavior and size was northern harrier. At this point, my best guess is harrier. Whatever it was, it was fun to watch, but I'll try not to pre-categorize next time!

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