adventures in nature

Posts tagged “Northern harrier

Klamath Basin report III- northern harrier gets some supper

As mentioned in my last blog post, while I watched an otter consume a duck, a northern harrier came gliding down the canal and dropped down on a small bird in the vegetation on the side of the canal just 10 feet from the otter!

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northern harrier starts its attack!

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first strike! northern harrier grabs the small bird

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harrier attempts to subdue small bird now in its talons

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the struggle continues

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lift-off!       lift-off?

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not quite – the struggle continues down on the ice

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the harrier wins this contest

The whole time I’m shooting this scene the otter is just eating (and occasionally napping) away just 10 feet to the right. It was just ridiculous the amount of activity happening at this particular location.

One thing I noted while driving was that small birds were flying very close in front of my vehicle. I actually struck one of them, sadly. I’m wondering if their reaction time is slowed by the cold weather and if that gives an advantage to predators (who are primarily using gravity to drop down on their prey). Interesting to hear if anyone else has experience with this.

 


Klamath Basin report II- the otter and the (dead) duck

There is a lot of wildlife in the Klamath Basin, and not all of it has feathers.

Sometimes you are in the right place at the right time, and this was certainly one of those instances. With the incredibly low temperatures that were present for the last few days, there was almost no open water around – it was all frozen. One canal had some exposed water around an outlet pipe, with ice starting to encroach but enough open water to attract a small flock of water fowl.

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green-winged teal / Lower Klamath NWR

I was out of my jeep watching a small group of pintails, green-winged teals, mallards and grebes in the small bit of open water, suddenly they “gently” flushed – they didn’t fly, but they walked out of the water. I didn’t flush them, but I couldn’t figure out what did. I turned for a moment to grab something in my jeep, when I looked back I saw what appeared to be a mallard duck struggling to get out of the water and onto the ice. Then I realized that it was actually the duck’s rear end that was out of the water! As my mind struggled to put the vision before me together, the duck slipped under the surface of the water. A few seconds later, a huge river otter popped up out of the water onto the ice with the (now dead) duck in its mouth!

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river otter and prey, a mallard duck / Lower Klamath NWR

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river otter with its prey, a mallard duck / Lower Klamath NWR

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river otter and dead duck / Lower Klamath NWR

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I watched it consume the duck for almost an hour, occasionally it would retreat under water (sometimes with its meal!) when other people drove by or came too close (which unfortunately some did come too close).

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quick hide! ignorant people!!

There were times that the otter appeared to nod off after so much eating, but he wasn’t about to stop – he just needed some dinner naps. I’ve been there.

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otter in a mid-dinner nap

Otters are such a joy to watch, their behavior is always fascinating. Such beautiful, fun creatures. I’m sure the ducks felt differently.

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During the time I was watching the otter, a northern harrier floated down the canal in the air and made a successful strike on a small bird – just 10 feet from the otter! I’ll put the series of pictures from that in the next blog …

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northern harrier subdues small passerine bird / Lower Klamath NWR

The show wasn’t over though. After that a prairie falcon came in and made an unsuccessful strike on a small duck in the canal behind me! This place was a hot spot!

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prairie falcon / Lower Klamath NWR

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prairie falcon / Lower Klamath NWR

The other water fowl seemed to realize the otter was satiated, as they came back into close proximity of the otter as it was eating and even afterwards while he was still in the area. After the otter finished, another harrier moved in to scavenge the duck as the sun set.

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northern harrier scavenging the duck killed by the otter / Lower Klamath NWR

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northern harrier scavenging a duck provided graciously by the otter in the foreground / Lower Klamath NWR

I imagine it wasn’t long after I left that the coyotes I heard howling nearby moved in for the rest of the scraps. Their tracks were all over the Basin area, and I saw four of them during my two days there, moving at a rapid pace through the preserves as they hunted.

 A ranger that I told about the encounter had been at the same location earlier and saw a bobcat. It was likely no coincidence that this spot was so active – the open water attracted the water fowl, which in turn attracted the predators.

Such a fun day. I stayed out past sunset watching everything unfold, and the temperature dropped quickly. I was happy to get back to town that night for a warm bed. Unfortunately I had some camera malfunction issues, so my shots aren’t as good as I’d hoped (auto-focus issues) – I learned the hard way to test new equipment more thoroughly before being out in the field! That is minor though – WHAT A DAY!!! It’s not often that you see this kind of show!! Very grateful to have the opportunity to be up there and that there are people protecting it. Check out KS Wild, one of the many groups helping the cause.

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a happy, gorged otter


2015 Oct 07 – hawk hill merlin, ravens and red-tails

beautiful day up on hawk hill, filled with friends, hazy blue skies, and a good number of migrating birds and butterflies.

IMG_1278 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

as i arrived there we had a great look at a merlin that flew not too far overhead (a merlin is a type of small falcon, larger than a kestrel but smaller than a peregrine falcon) – it appeared to be a juvenile. they are fairly uncommon here in the bay area, but they pass through during migration time from their breeding grounds to the north – and in the time of short days we get a boost in the population as some choose to spend the winter here.

IMG_1185 v1MERLIN / hawk hill, marin county ca

the humans congregated on top of the hill with their scopes and binos, calling out every moving bird within a couple of miles. it’s a rather bizarre experience, to see all these people perched on the high hill for hours at a time every day for three months of the year, but wonderful that so many committed volunteers take their time to do this. as everyone was focused afar, two resident ravens, a male and female pair, landed very close by to watch the watchers.

IMG_1226 v1RAVENS with golden gate in background / hawk hill, marin county ca

RAVENS with golden gate in background / hawk hill, marin county ca

we chuckled as we realized that i was watching the birds, who were watching the other people, who were watching the other birds! these two hung around for quite a while, intrigued by the activity of the people (and likely looking for some dropped food as well). occasionally they would come very close to each other, making quiet croaking noises as one of them would groom the other’s face area. it was so endearing. and at such close quarters, in the bright sun, i could really see the intelligence in their eyes. amazing, beautiful animals.

IMG_1241 v1RAVENS grooming – or perhaps a literal “peck on the cheek?”

IMG_1244 v1-2RAVENS / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1233 v1RAVEN / hawk hill, marin county ca

we saw a lot of accipiters today, as expected, but were also treated to a number of ferruginous hawks, several merlins, and some late-in-the-day peregrines. after most people had packed up for the day and i was leaving the hill, a red-tail floated overhead to hunt the area and allowed for some really fun pictures …

IMG_1267 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1270 v1-2RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

IMG_1276 v1RED-TAILED HAWK / hawk hill, marin county ca

the colors on this bird are amazing, and for an adult it has a very light eye (iris). so beautiful. thank you, my good friend!

as always happens when one packs up to leave, birds start showing themselves and tempting you to stay. as i started down the trail, one last juvenile northern harrier tried to keep me on the hill.

IMG_1286 v1juvenile NORTHERN HARRIER (aka MARSH HAWK) / hawk hill, marin county ca

 

 

 


winter migrants have arrived

IMG_9596 juvenile ferruginous hawkjuvenile ferruginous hawk, point reyes national seashore

IMG_9592 juvenile ferruginous hawkjuvenile ferruginous hawk, point reyes national seashore

IMG_9588 tres otters and great egretgreat egret and three river otters / point reyes national seashore

IMG_9601 adult female northern harrieradult female northern harrier / point reyes national seashore

IMG_9607 bobcata flushed bobcat on the run / point reyes national seashore


lots of eyasses!

so many babies right now! in addition to the exciting black hawk / red-shoulder nest and eyas (in my last post), i’ve gotten to see some other fun sites.

the three eyasses at the fruitvale bridge have successfully fledged and are learning to fly. when i was there last week, they were still unsteady in their flight, and one was doing a lot of “practice flapping” while gripping tightly onto the bridge span. so fun to watch. he took a little time to stare down at the strange two-legged staring up at him. when the adult female showed up (empty taloned), one of the young kept harassing her and pushing her off her perch. they are a hungry lot!

fledgling peregrine falcon / Alameda County, CA

fledgling peregrine falcon / Alameda County, CA

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i stumbled on a nest that i hadn’t ever seen before, after hearing the young begging for dinner. this red-tailed hawks nest near wildcat canyon should be vacant very soon – these young are looking ready to go. i saw their parents hunting until well after dark trying to keep their bellies full, not an easy job!

red-tailed hawks nest / Contra Costa County, CA

red-tailed hawks nest / Contra Costa County, CA

three red-tail eyasses

three red-tail eyasses

i’m still hopeful that i’ll get to see some young harriers soon, for surely the behavior of the the pair (pictured in some previous posts) in the marsh by the bay indicates they are around.

female northern harrier / Marin Co, CA

female northern harrier / Marin Co, CA


sonoma coast northern harriers

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

On this picture you can see the owl-like facial disk that Northern harriers wear:

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

female Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

female Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

female Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

female Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

male Northern harrier / Sonoma Coast CA

Northern harriers are found in open grass and marsh lands (historically called the “marsh hawk”), and they tend to fly low over the landscape in search of small mammals, insects and lizards which are one of their main sources of prey. They have a small facial disk, similar to owls, and it is believed they use this to use focus sound when hunting in the same way that it is said that owls do.

Males and females are sexually dimorphic, meaning in this case that they have very different adult plummages. Males are white and gray with black on the wingtips of the primary feathers, while females (and sub-adults) are dark brown overall with a cinnamon or pumpkin coloring on their underside (sub-adults tend to have more of a cinnamon coloring). One of their features that is helpful for in-flight ID is their white rump patch, seen on all of them. They also tend to hold their wings in a slight dihedral (v-shape), while gliding low over the ground.

Interesting, these birds nest on the ground.

They are fun to watch, as they glide over the landscape almost like butterflies teetering in the wind.