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VTBIRD  December 2014

VTBIRD December 2014

Subject:

Prairie Falcon, etc

From:

David Hof <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 17:46:39 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (41 lines)

Vermont Birders,

I apologize for the delay on this post...I haven't had email access since Thursday evening.

I spotted the Prairie Falcon Friday afternoon (12 Dec) at ~1:40, not along Otter Creek Rd., but along the south side of Rt. 17 between the westernmost goose viewing turnoff and the Brilyea access road.  While out birding the Champlain Valley area of Addison County, I decided to try for the Prairie Falcon on Otter Creek Rd. late Friday morning.  I spent about 2 hours on Otter Creek Rd. with no luck, but I enjoyed talking with a few other birders that I ran into there.  

Afterwards, while driving W on Rt. 17, I spotted a bird in flight within 10-20m of the road.  It's falcon-like flight and shape caught my eye, and against all good reason I pulled off to the side of the road as far as I could into the snow.  Had I read some of the posts from this weekend, I probably would have thought twice about this.  The bird was spotted flying low to the ground and then flew up into a tree.  After a brief look through my binoculars I jumped out of my car and got my scope on it.  After a minute or so of viewing it in the tree, the bird flew towards the ground and made a low pass for about 10m.  This short flight low to the ground was reminiscent of a harrier's low flight, but was much faster and more directed, and lacking the teetering quality and dihedral wing position.  It's quickness was quite impressive.  I didn't see the the bird make a capture, but it perched on the ground and ate something for at least 5 minutes during which I watched it through my spotting scope from a distance of less than 20m.  The bird perched on the ground with its back to me and turned at a slight angle to the side.  From this angle, I could see the wing and tail tips, the wings being notably shorter than the tail.  The back and wings were more or less a uniform pale-ish brown.  The bird had a pale-ish brown "bar" extending down from the base of the bill/eye region, a whitish patch on the side of neck/head, a pale stripe extending back from above the eye giving the impression of a supercilium, and a pale spot in front of the eye and forehead area.  Otherwise, its crown was entirely pale-ish brown.  Head and facial markings appeared slightly paler than the back and wings. The bird eventually took flight along the S side of the road heading E (toward 22A).  In flight, its underwings were pale with notable dark/black feathers visible in the "wingpit" region.  Wings appeared less pointed in shape than a peregrine's, giving the impression of broader wings, but its flight style was distinctly falcon-like. I couldn't make out what it had been eating nor could I view the legs (since its back was facing me), so I can't comment on the bird's right foot that Eric Hynes brought up.

I have little doubt that this bird was indeed a Prairie Falcon despite finding it this distance from other reported sightings.  I would not be surprised if this bird is moving around and covering a wide range.              

I hate to bring this up, but did anyone happen to check out the dead raptor near the goose viewing area reported by Sue Wetmore?  It's an awful thought, but the bird I saw was quite close to this busy road.  

Other highlights and interesting sightings on the weekend were...

-The large numbers of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks along roads and in fields throughout Addison County.  As others had reported there were at least 200 Snow Buntings in the field to the south of Gage Rd.  On Saturday, I found 1 Lapland Longspur feeding with Snow Buntings and Horned Larks along Gage Rd., and on Sunday 3 Longspurs were mixed within a flock of birds foraging along Church St. near Rt 17.

-Besides a spectacular show by 2 Short-eared Owls on Gage Rd. (one was perched in a tree when I arrived at 3:30pm on Friday), I bumped into a Short-eared Owl sitting on the road on Lapham Bay Rd. while driving late Thursday night. 

-Large numbers of Snow Geese were seen migrating and on the Lake...~250 flew over when I was watching the Harris's Sparrow on Basin Harbor Rd. Friday morning.  An estimated minimum of 700 flew over in one large flock Saturday morning when I was at Farrell Access of Dead Creek, and an additional 150 slightly later.  At least 1000 were on the far side of Lake Champlain viewed from Arnold Bay, and all took flight for a while before settling back down.      

-A Cackling Goose was mixed in with a large group of Canada Geese at Goose Bay on Friday morning.  

-A Peregrine Falcon and Cooper's Hawk on Otter Creek Rd.

-4 Northern Pintails were seen from Button Bay State Park on Saturday. 

-A good number of Rough-legged Hawks...
Lake St. 1
Townline Rd. 1
Harris's Sparrow Spot 1
Gage Rd. 2
Jersey St. 1

-Large numbers of Common Goldeneye, perhaps 400 or more, along the NY side of the lake seen from Chimney Pt.  Also present were Common Mergansers and Scaup, but birds were too distant for me to make out much.

-Lingering Savannah Sparrows were also present in a few locations

Hopefully, the Prairie Falcon is still out there somewhere!

~David Hof

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