Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nov 24, 2014: Erv's Field Notes #76

Geese on the south lake (looking north). 11/23/14 (LaDan Omidvar)

Sunday, November 23, 2014, 2:00-3:30 pm, Cloudy, no wind, Temperature 51 degrees F.

I set up my spotting scope on the south lake this afternoon to watch the waterfowl. I estimated there were about 3100 Canada Geese on the lake. Among them were a few Cackling Geese, Mallards, Common Mergansers, Redheads, Goldeneyes, Coots, and Pied-bill Grebes. The goose flock was smaller than yesterday when I estimated more than 4000 plus Trumpeter Swans. No swans today.

About 3:30 the sky got darker and a rain shower moved through behind a strong west wind. Although I was wearing a rain coat, I got very wet from the waist down by the time I reached the car. Now is a good time to view waterfowl at the park. I hope you can find time to take advantage of the opportunity.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to view an immature Northern Goshawk in my back yard. Goshawks are infrequent visitors to Iowa in the winter. I don’t see a big variety of birds in my backyard because of where I live in the central part of Ames. Mostly House Sparrows visit my feeders along with a few Northern Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers and Bluejays. If I’m lucky, once or twice a year, I might see a resident Coopers Hawk or a migrant Sharp-shinned Hawk swoop in and catch a House Sparrow. Both of these birds of prey, as is the Northern Goshawk, are in the family Accipitridae and the genus Accipiter. Accipiters prey primarily on other birds. I first caught a glimpse of the hawk perched on a large brush pile and I saw that it had the characteristic long tail of an accipiter. I quickly ran to get my binoculars and moved to the sun room for a better view. The hawk then made a pass at a fox squirrel that was scavenging sunflower seeds on the ground below the bird feeder. This provided a good close-up view and I could see that it was much larger than a Coopers Hawk. It would be highly unusual for a Coopers Hawk to go after a squirrel. I thought, immature Red-tailed Hawk? No, the spotting on the breast and the markings on the tail were not right. I got good views of the bird from several angles as it tried several more times to catch a squirrel. Every time, the squirrel was too fast and dove into the brush pile. I was able to make out a faint white line over the eye, characteristic of the adult of this species. I consulted three different field guides that I had on hand and decided that it was definitely an immature Northern Goshawk. After about five minutes, the young bird gave up and flew off toward the north.

Erv Klaas

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