Rockfish Valley Trail 12/14/12

All photos are Marshall Faintich

I decided to go back to the trail about mid-morning to see if the Gray Ghost (adult male Northern Harrier) was still there, and to try to get better photos of it. It was sunny and bright, but considerably colder with temperatures in the upper 20s. All the trail areas in deep shadow had heavy frost.

I parked just off route 627 north of the first wooden bridge. As soon as I got out of my car, I heard and then saw a Red-shouldered Hawk calling from a tree along the downstream trail. I crossed the first wooden bridge, took a few photos of it, and then it flew away. A Red-tailed Hawk was chasing it from its territory. After the Red-tailed Hawk left, the Red-shouldered Hawk returned, but kept an eye over its shouldered on the watch for any trouble.


Field Sparrow


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk

I could see a male American Kestrel far to the south, so I headed south on the east side of Reids Creek. This area has had little avian activity for the past few weeks, but the far south end was loaded with small sparrows - mostly Dark-eyed Juncos. I headed back north walking on route 627, and I saw a female American Kestrel sitting on the same power line where she was yesterday.


Female American Kestrel


Female American Kestrel


Female American Kestrel

And then I saw the Gray Ghost again, searching the fields on the east side of Reids Creek. I still wasn't able to get very close to it, but I got closer than yesterday, and the photos show that it was a Sub-adult (Basic I) male. Although its upper side was gray and most of its under side was white with black wing-tips, its head was dark gray with a brown eye-ring, and it still had some traces of its juvenile rufous belly and wing bars.


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier


Northern Harrier

After watching it for a few minutes, I lost it in the tall vegetation, and then it took off, flew to the west, and crossed over the trees that lined Reids Creek. It took me a couple of minutes to get back to the first wooden bridge and cross over it, and by that time the Gray Ghost was out of sight. The Red-shouldered Hawk was still on a downstream trail tree, and the male American Kestrel was perched at the top of a nearby tree.


Male American Kestrel

I hiked part way down the west side of Reids Creek, but did not see the Harrier again. Some of the trail that was now in the sunlight started to get more active.


Eastern Bluebird



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