Monday, December 16, 2013

Winter Power Pole Birding...How-to and Photo Salon

Nothing beats a winter drive in the country, especially with the goal of hawkwatching in mind. Driving "backroads" in the warmth of your vehicle and leisurely scoping out the high points of the landscape in anticipation....well of whatever is not on your checklist or the spectacle at times. High populations of small rodents are the determinant for hawk density; I've seen over 100 hawks over a 50 mile circuit.
The habitat for mice and voles can be a mix of CRP (farmland set aside for conservation), cropland (plowed and unplowed), ranchland and hopefully some native sod. Just as important as habitat are power poles along the roadside; most buteo's are perch hunters and these provide the perch substrate. For you beginning birders, these perches will allow you excellent, numerous views to study the birds and photograph at times.
Sometimes having poles and habitat in abundance (think North Dakota) is not a good thing because bird distribution can be very spotty due to immense amount of habitat available. Then again, that is exactly what a Gyrfalcon (Falco rusitcolus) requires. Perhaps most of you reading this live in large urban areas; a day trip of several hours (guessing 70 miles or so one way) should get you into some kind of promising habitat. I remember taking a day trip downstate with several Chicagoland birders many years ago to see Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) at the Lawrenceville (believe that is correct) airport. It was successful!!
Being a good birder means homework and preparation (excuse the preaching, experts). Embedded are several photos for you to identify and age; hands-on work usually equates with better learning and retention. In fact, it may be a cake walk with the wide spectrum of field guides, hard coy and digital, (think Crossley and Sibley guides) available. Oh, there are 2 photos of birds not on a pole...uncooperative for a photo and a bit of a bonus :-)