Raptor Migration in Full Swing

Migrating turkey vulture

Migrating turkey vulture

The annual Raptor (aka Birds of Prey — eagles, hawks, falcons, owls and vultures) migration is in full swing. The birds of prey are migrating north to their summer nesting grounds. The raptors fly up the hog back for several reasons. First, it is an easy marker for them to follow —¬† a constant ribbon of rock from New Mexico into Wyoming. Second, the sun warms the rocks and provides up drafts. These up drafts give a little extra lift that the heavy birds of prey use to gain altitude. With the gift of lift, the raptors can soar for more miles every day.

Scientists take advantage of the concentration of raptors. There is a monitoring station perched on top of the Dakota Hogback at Raptor Ridge, just on the east side of Co Hwy 93, just south of the I-70/ Co Hwy 93 interchange. There is a parking lot at the base of the hog back, across from Mathews-Winters Open Space. http://jeffco.us/open-space/parks/matthews-winters-park/

Migrating Cooper's Hawk

Migrating Cooper’s Hawk

Migrating red-tailed hawk

Migrating red-tailed hawk

Scientists from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science initially manned the observation station, but budget cuts took their toll, and the job was passed on to Hawk Watch volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory. http://rmbo.org/v2/web/getInvolved/hawkWatch.aspx These hardy folks volunteer to count the raptors as they fly overhead. Not a bad gig when it is nice out, but in wind or cold, it takes true dedication.

But their work pays off, and you can see it in their reports. Since they started watching at the beginning of April, almost 400 birds of prey have been spotted cruising over the hogback. https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/cobirds/N7YwWW90D3k

Hawk Watch will continue counting raptors  through May. Go up and see them and spot some hawks flying by.

 

Thanksgiving Dinner

There are two animals in this picture. Can you find them? The first is relatively obvious. The second may take some searching.Image

There are two creatures in this tree. Can you find them both?

I took this photo on Thanksgiving Day. I noticed the hawk in the tree as we were getting our own dinner ready. I took several shots of it before I noticed its prey plastered to the branch beneath it, the stillest thing in the tree. We usually think of birds as dinner on Thanksgiving, but this guy had other ideas.

After a while, my husband got tired of waiting for me, and I got tired of waiting for the hawk to see the squirrel. About the same time, the hawk got tired of waiting for the squirrel and flew off. The squirrel never got tired of being absolutely still, and I’m sure was truly thankful to survive for another day.

Some loose, some win.

This is the time of year when the sun gets low in the horizon. The change in light must make our windows appear clear to birds visiting our feeders. One of the visitors has learned to take advantage of this problem.

We have all sorts of birds come to our feeders — house sparrows, finches, chickadees,

Image

Juvenile Coopers hawk builds up the nerve to go down to the Mourning dove that has been killed by flying into our windows.

nuthatches, woodpeckers —¬† the list goes on. One of the largest visitors is the mourning dove.

Recently we have lost birds to flying into the windows. This only began over the last few years. We put up stickers, but still they would burst skyward and smack into our windows. We finally discovered why.

Local Cooper’s hawks have learned to startle the birds at the feeders, causing them to panic and fly into spaces they’d never attempt normally — spaces filled with glass. The birds smack into the windows and are killed by breaking their necks or skulls.

Juvenile Cooper's moves closer to kill.

Juvenile Cooper’s moves closer to kill.

 

The Cooper’s hawks then pick up the bird, sometimes as large as they are, and fly away to enjoy their kills.

Coopers and mourning dove-10_edited-2

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk flies away with mourning dove. The hawk barely cleared the fence with its heavy load. But it took an extra turn along the back fence and made it over.