Making PEFAs While the Sun Shines

I had 10 minutes free on this spring morning so I checked on a local Peregrine pair, wondering if they had returned this year. It was a grayish morning but I parked my car and ambled over to the place they are known to nest.

Within 2 minutes I'd located the female preening atop a building.

By four minutes I'd found the male stoic and nearly silhouetted on a nearby structure backed by clouds.

6 minutes in and I heard that familiar Peregrine cry and looked back to see the male stretch and take off in the direction of the female. The clock reads 9:20 am.

Within seconds the sun broke out from behind the clouds just as the male floated up and landed on the back of the waiting female. 

A few moments later he departed and flew back in my direction.

By the time 10 minutes had passed I was back in my car heading home and the sky was gray once more. My disposition was as sunny as it ever gets.

Keep looking up!

15 Minutes at Montrose

A quick stop on my morning commute produced these lovely moments.

Sometimes overlooked but Grackles are seriously stunning when the light is right.

Sometimes overlooked but Grackles are seriously stunning when the light is right.

A Grackle looking sleek and serene...

A Grackle looking sleek and serene...

The same bird a few seconds later in mid-call!

The same bird a few seconds later in mid-call!

A female Red-winged Blackbird in a moment of stillness. 

A female Red-winged Blackbird in a moment of stillness. 

Stuck in the Sky

I got a text from my neighbor that we had a bird stuck in the skylight at the top of the back stairs. It's an exterior staircase with a cap that lets light in but keeps the weather out. My daughter and I went to investigate and found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker patiently hopping around the perimeter looking for a way out.

The sun was strong and we hatched a plan to cover the skylight with a blanket so the bird would know to escape by flying down toward the light from the open stairway. While my neighbor gathered materials the Sapsucker kept hopping and looking and searching for an opening. At least it had some insects for company and I saw it pick off a few as it waited.

Meanwhile my daughter looked on with great curiosity in the arms of my neighbor's great kid. Birding as a parent is a community affair.

We finally gained access to the roof and started covering the skylight.

... and as it grew darker the Sapsucker began to look toward the light below.

And a second after this photo was taken the bird was flying free over the backyard and toward distant trees. We got to see a special bird up close and perform a rescue. Not bad for a slow Sunday morning.

Redpolls and Raptors at Montrose

A friend and I went for a walk in the early hours last Saturday around the Magic Hedge and the Montrose Dunes. We weren't early enough to catch the Short-eared Owl that was seen earlier that day but the hedge was alive with Chickadees and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Even on this chilly and brief visit I managed another life bird, a small flock of Common Redpolls in the clearing.

We ambled out to the end of the pier before returning carefully in the shadows behind the hedge hoping to find some secret shaded spot sheltering an owl. No such luck. We did however notice a young Red-tailed Hawk that had garnered the attention of a few photographers so we made our way to join the small group of onlookers.

It relocated to another branch but miscalculated and came up a bit short resulting in this lovely awkward moment.

Once it decided to leave it gave a few head bobs and allowed me to catch a moment I don't photograph very often, a Redtail in full crouch, spring-loading those legs with its wings just beginning to unfurl.

Branches in the way meant tucking in the left wing until...

finally clear of the obstructions the hawk flew right at us.

It perched in a spot with a better view of the park and several more escape/hunting options. This raised the ire of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk who materialized out from those same shady areas we had just walked through and silently mobbed the oblivious young Redtail.

The Coop eventually got fed up and tore off toward the south triggering a small wave of alarm calls from the bushes below as it departed.

The Redtail soon left and made a half-hearted stoop on some foraging squirrels. Unlike the Cooper's Hawk though, it flew in a wide circle around the park looking for other opportunities. I heard a local photographer mention he had seen this young bird in the area for at least a week if not more. Perhaps we shall meet again.

A Slow Autumn Day at Montrose

I got out to the bird sanctuary around 8:45 and things started off quite promising with an immediate Sharp-shinned Hawk tucked high into the bare branches of a tree. It took off and high pitched alarm calls spread in a wave through the undergrowth.

Moments later a Cape May Warbler (life bird) appeared and was very cooperative although distant.

As the sun rose higher the birds retreated into the shadows but the butterflies put on a show.

I crept into the trees and clouds of thousand of mosquitos filled the air. A few moments later it was clear they weren't biting and I settled in with a lovely bird who foraged around me for 5 minutes. Later I learned it was a first winter female Blackburnian Warbler (life bird). She was the stuff mosquito nightmares are made of.

This photo shows the pale stripes on her back which are distinctive among warblers.

This photo shows the pale stripes on her back which are distinctive among warblers.

Behind the Magic Hedge were more bugs and more birds feasting in the shadows. This female Black-throated Green Warbler (life bird) was among them. For a slow day to still offer 3 lifers is why Montrose is great, and why being new to an area is even better.

Female Black-throated Green Warbler

Female Black-throated Green Warbler

Chicago from Montrose Point

Chicago from Montrose Point