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A Raptor Kind of Day

Published January 30, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Short-eared Owl, Snowy Owl, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Shrike

After an afternoon business meeting - and since I was already halfway there -I decided to visit some Short-eared Owls again this evening. It was a beautiful late afternoon / early evening with warmer temps - a balmy 20 degrees even! We had some sunshine today and I hear the slipped polar vortex is on the run heading back up north to where it belongs. Given all this, I thought a celebratory romp with the owls was in order!

As I was watching the owls fly over the fields, a Northern Shrike flew in and rested for a few moments at the top of a distant tree. It moved locations a few times, eventually flying northwest and out of reasonable pursuit.

A sub-adult male Northern Harrier soon joined the owls and some skirmishes over voles ensued. Thank you, Betsy Potter, for pointing me in the right direction for the sex and age of the harrier. I'm trying to notice the number of females / female types (young males) of harriers I see.  My friend and fellow birder, Rick Bacher, recently mentioned that he rarely sees an adult male - so I'm going to start noticing too. (See Rick's blog)   And sure enough, tonight's encounter was with a young male.

In the field across the road, I noticed another ruckus - a very white Snow Owl was getting dive-bombed by two Short-eareds! Could it get any better? A Red-tailed Hawk flew in, making it just that much better - and giving me more photo ops. smiley icon

Another hawk settled out in the field and I was pretty sure it was a Rough-legged. My poor photos of it can't confirm that, so I'm going to refrain from saying for sure.  All in all, though, I saw more raptors than normal for an evening and it was a fun night in the setting sun. As much as I am soooo looking forward to spring, I will miss these evening forays.
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl with a vole. It would've made a much nicer shot if it was in better focus!
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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In addition to the dark wing tips and the pale underside, the yellowish eyes reveal this to be a 1st year male Northern Harrier.
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Red-tailed Hawk (during a skirmish with the owls)
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Distant shot of a Northern Shrike
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It was pretty far out there - and I might have missed this Snowy Owl had the short-eareds not harassed it.
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American Kestrel seen earlier in the day
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American Kestrel (female)