Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cape Cod Winter Bird Sightings

I continue to get great tips from my friend Chris Walsh. He said he spotted 8 common Eiders at the Spit in Mashpee a few weeks ago (in addition to the Short Eared Owl he and his wife Chelsea's dog Jackson flushed out), and he also shared a story of a hawk sighting near the bird feeder in his yard.

Here is his story unedited:

I woke up last week to the sound of a vocal bird outside my window. Most of the time, even while half-asleep, I'm continually monitoring the common bird sounds I hear, but this call got me out of bed because it was a loud scream and because I had no idea what it could be. This immature Cooper's Hawk sat outside long enough for me to snap a few pictures through the bathroom window. I think this one turned out the best. I was thankful to get the opportunity to take a long and studied look at the bird. It's a resident of the neighborhood that I've glimpsed several times over the past couple of months. It flew through the yard again today, presumably gunning for a chickadee or titmouse or mourning dove.

He also caught this nice fat little chickadee:

I'm impressed he was able to get the hawk. I saw one in my parents' back yard a few weeks ago, also preying on the birds at the bird feeder. He had a reddish chest, which was the most notable characteristic about him. Overall he was very dark. I spotted him from within the house and by the time I ran out the front door to get my camera from the car he had already flown away. I'm suspecting it was probably a Cooper's Hawk as well, although the majority of the pictures I'm finding show a lighter-colored chest, as in Chris' picture above. I think there's a possibility it could have been a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I have no way of truly knowing since I only saw it for a moment. According to my Sibley Guide, they also tend to hunt small birds at feeders and their average height is 11" versus Cooper's Hawks at 16.5." Also considering where I saw him in the tree I think it's more likely it was a smaller bird since I think it would have been difficult for him to land within this tree if he were a larger bird (the difference between a 36" wingspan and a 42" one). Again, I can't be sure until I spot another one, but it's interesting to learn about them!

Other winter sightings I've had here outside Boston have been flocks of Bufflehead ducks on the Charles River every morning during my drive to work. I also see swans every morning, and today there was a pair curled up and sleeping on the ice. I realize they're nice and insulated but it makes me shiver just looking at them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chelsea Harry: Bird Dog Owner

My friend Chelsea from the Cape was visiting Tuesday night and told me about her dog Jackson, who is apparently a bird dog. He flushed out a pheasant at Crane Wildlife Management Area in Falmouth, MA. Then he flushed out a Short Eared Owl at the Spit in Mashpee, MA.

She was walking him at the wildlife reserve when he ran off into a field and began tracking the bird, following its scent on a random path through the field. Then all of a sudden she saw there was great commotion as he flushed the bird out and it flew up out of the tall grass. Jackson stopped in his tracks and pointed, then followed the bird, leaping all the way across the field.

Her husband Chris said the same thing happened when he was walking Jackson at the Spit, which is a beach in Popponesset in Mashpee. She said he was walking him and then he ran off into the tall grass and out flew the owl.
She was really excited to share this story with me about her "mutt" from Hawaii. She said a few weeks prior she had chatted with a hunter at the wildlife reservation about his birding dog and said she would love to be able to train her dog to do it. She said he was pretty snobby in his reply and said "this isn't something you can train your dog to do—they're bred that way." Well, apparently Jackson has some sort of hunting breed in him. Good for you Jackson!! :)