Stoney Creek (Wintergreen) 2/22/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich


My favorite bird is the Red-shouldered Hawk. This species breeds here in Stoney Creek, and although I have seen them year round, they are more frequently seen during the winter months. I often see a pair of them together, but have never seen more than two at the same time. The Cornell University Ornithology Lab holds its annual Great Backyard Bird Count each year over the President's Day weekend, and I was fortunate to see and report three different Red-shouldered Hawks here in Stoney Creek during the GBBC.

After my GBBC hike on the Rockfish Valley Trail on 2/17/12, Alice and I took a walk around Stoney Creek where we saw an American Crow harassing a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk.


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk

I saw an adult Red-shouldered Hawk on 2/18/12, and although adult males and female have the same plumage, males can have brighter colors on their undersides, and my suspicion is that the one that I saw this day was a male.


Adult Red-shouldered Hawk


Adult Red-shouldered Hawk

We had four to six inches of snow on 2/19/12, but I was able to get back to birding on 2/20/12 as a lot of the snow had melted, and the birds were eager to find some food. I saw a third Red-shouldered Hawk, and assume that this one might have been an adult female because its underside was paler than the one I saw two days earlier.


Red-shouldered Hawk

The temperature really started to warm up today, with a high expected around 60 degrees, and close to 70 for tomorrow. Most of the snow had melted, and there were a lot of birds foraging for breakfast when I hiked here in Stoney Creek this morning. As I approached the Allen Creek Nature Preserve, I heard two Red-shouldered Hawks calling to each other. One of them took off to the south and flew above and out of the nature preserve. A minute later, as I was entering the preserve, the second hawk took off from eye level in a nearby tree and headed into the small pine forest to the northeast of the preserve. I didn't see too many birds around the preserve, so I hiked along the south end of the small pine forest, looking both into the forest to my left, and over the large farm field to my right. I heard a Red-shouldered Hawk to my right, and at the far end of the field, I saw an adult hawk fly to the southwestern corner of the field.


Adult Red-shouldered Hawk

I then looked up as I watched a couple of Turkey Vultures join a few others circling high above the farm field. And then I noticed a hawk with the vultures, and the light crescent-shaped patches near the end of its wings indicated that it was a Red-shouldered Hawk, and the streaked breast made it a juvenile.


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk

I soon heard a third Red-shouldered Hawk calling from behind me in the pine forest, probably the one that I had seen flying there from the nature preserve, and it came to the field to join the other aerial hunters. Another juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk - three at the same time!


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk

Both of the juvenile hawks circled together, and they looked almost identical to me, other than one of them having slightly more and darker breast streaks. I could see the translucent wing crescents on both hawks.


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks

One of the hawks left, and the other one dropped down to a lower altitude.


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk


Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk

So there are at least four Red-shouldered Hawks here in Stoney Creek this winter. Hope they stick around!



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