Raptor’s Delight

A backlit light morph Rough-legged Hawk at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 12/7/14.
A backlit light morph Rough-legged Hawk at the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, 12/7/14.

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One thing I knew I wanted to do this weekend was to try to get out to the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR. When Ken McDermott let me know on Friday evening that he had a Northern Shrike there that day, I knew for sure that’s where I was headed. Saturday was, unfortunately, a wash. Steady rains all day made for poor birding, though it was not for lack of trying. I went to the grasslands early in the day where I met up with John Haas and Ralph Tabor and we had no luck with the shrike. Sunday was a different story; it was a beautiful, sunny, cold, and crisp day which was very refreshing. No luck again with the Northern Shrike, but I did REALLY well with raptors. I spent a few hours in the morning in the new blind that Ralph placed pretty far into the eastern most portion of the refuge. The blind is well placed with several nearby trees for the birds to perch on, and it is in an area where the Rough-legged Hawks seem to spend a lot of time. By the time I headed back to my car in the early afternoon, I had put together what I consider a pretty good list of raptors:

Black Vulture (3)
Turkey Vulture (4)
Bald Eagle (2 adults)
Northern Harrier (4)
Red-tailed Hawk (5)
Rough-legged Hawk (5 – at least!)
American Kestrel (1)
Peregrine Falcon (1)

And, being in a blind, I had some very good opportunities for photos:

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This male American Kestrel could be seen working the grasslands all morning long, and then luckily stopped to perch in the tree right in front of the blind. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.
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American Kestrel in flight, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.
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xDark morph Rough-legged Hawk in flight over the blind at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.
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This is the same bird pictured above, as it came in to perch. RLHA at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.
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VERY distant shot of a Pergrine Falcon that seemed to just pass through. Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.

In the parking lot of the refuge I ran into PJ Singh who decided to join me in looking for some waterfowl. At our first stop, Lippincott Road in Wallkill, we saw a half dozen Common Mergansers, but that’s it. We did much better at our second stop, Chadwick Lake. The highlight for me was five Common Goldeneyes, and we also had: Ruddy Duck (9), Ring-necked Duck (35), Hooded Merganser (6), Common Loon (1), and a single Mute Swan.

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Ruddy Duck at Chadwick Lake, 12/7/14. This is one of the few that were not tucked in.
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xThree of five Common Goldeneye at Chadwick Lake, 12/7/14.

Since it was such a gorgeous afternoon, I returned to the grasslands in the afternoon to try for photos of the Short-eared Owls. The light was a good as it could be, but unfortunately the owls did not cooperate and did not get up until after dark. It was tough to see, but when they did come up I counted at least three. I sat in the north blind until it was too dark for photos and did alright with Northern Harriers:

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The harriers seem to be eating well at the grasslands. Many of the birds I photographed had full crops like this bird. Northern Harrier at Shawangunk Grasslands, 12/7/14.
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NOHA at the grasslands, 12/7/14.
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Here’s another bird with a pretty full crop. Northern Harrier hunting at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, 12/7/14.
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And finally, the deer are plentiful at the refuge.

2 thoughts on “Raptor’s Delight”

    1. Thanks John. Being in a blind really helps so much towards getting good photos out there. Plus it’s really so exciting to have these birds get so close, which you can’t really do without the blind. Matt

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