Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Raptors and Spring

Yesterday morning I saw an adult Bald Eagle at the park. It was sitting calmly in one of the large Cottonwoods on the south side of the lake. Somebody on the Powderhorn email list reported that it was still around that evening, so it must have stayed around all day long. A bald eagle at the park isn't all that unusual, but they don't often stay very long, so I thought maybe it would still be there this morning when I went out. Soon after I arrived at the park this morning I noticed a rather large commotion from the northwest end of the lake. A group of crows was especially raucous and animated. I initially thought that perhaps they were mobbing the Bald Eagle. I was still a ways off when I saw the whole group move to another nearby tree: a large-ish bird followed by a group of angry crows. Even from that distance, it was obvious that it wasn't a Bald Eagle: it was a bit smaller, fairly evenly-colored and a lighter brown than a bald eagle. My initial thought was Red-tailed Hawk, which is even more common in the park than a Bald Eagle. As I made my way around the lake toward the tree, the bird took off again, and it became obvious that this wasn't a Red-tailed Hawk. It had very broad wings, a large head, slow and powerful wingbeats. A Great Horned Owl. The first one I've seen at the park. Unforunately the crows made sure that it didn't stay in the park very long, and it was escorted out of the park to the west before I could get a really good view of it.

More signs of spring this morning: the resident Cooper's Hawks are definitely building this year's nest in the south part of the park. I saw 9 Flickers in a tree at one time this morning. A pair of Bluebirds have returned, and the year's first flycatcher, an Eastern Phoebe, showed up a few days ago.