Sunday, January 4, 2015

Northern Harriers at Friendship Park

Last year, we saw our first Northern Harriers in the Willis Creek Park at Lake Granger. Today, on our last birding day of the Christmas break, we went to Friendship Park on the north side of Lake Granger after failing in our attempt to located a reported Greater Scaup north of the lake. It was a cold and windy day with not much to be seen. However, we did see a pair of Northern Harriers hunting along the edge of the lake, east of the parking area.

I walked out through the low grasses as close to the water as I could get with getting mired in the mud and waited for the Harriers to make nearby passes. Their bright white rumps and low flight pattern made them easily recognizable at a distance. As they passed closer, I could see the owl-like facial disk. Unlike the adult female we saw at the Bosque del Apache NWR and at Willis Creek, these had the coffee breast color and minimal striping that marked them as first-year juveniles.

In contrast to these low swooping raptors, we also saw a Red-Tailed Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk soaring overhead. Both hae much broader, rounded wings compared the the Harrier.

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