Raptor ID Field Trip with Dick Ashford
March 2, 2017
On Saturday morning, my third day at Winter Wings Festival, I went on a field trip with Dick Ashford to improve my ability to identify raptors in the field. Lucky me, I was placed in the lead car with Dick!
After Friday’s classroom training, I was already far more confident in my ability to age Bald Eagles and identify various Buteos
Most of the raptors we saw were far away sitting in a field atop a pivot, or like these in flight far above our heads.
These were a pair of juvenile Bald Eagles, one chasing the other hoping to steal food. If you look close, you can see a rodent trapped in the front eagle’s talons.
We don’t know how it ended, they continued the chase until well out of sight.
I saw something move on the ground and look! More Coyotes!! This pair was hunting for rodents or perhaps small squirrels that race across the fields then dive into underground tunnels.
We saw several Rough-legged Hawks ~ aren’t they gorgeous?!!
And THEN I saw my first Ferruginous Hawk!! He didn’t stay long for this portrait.
Shortly after we arrived he took off in flight and of course I followed as best I could.
We saw a few more that day, but this was the only one close enough for me to get a good shot at.
We saw a few American Kestrels and they are always a challenge to capture because they’re so fast.
I was thrilled to keep this one mostly centered in my viewfinder until he landed….
….and then he let me take a portrait while he hunted from his wire perch.
We saw over 100 Bald Eagles. We tried to keep track of what we saw, but I didn’t hear the final tally.
We watched him fly closer to us…
…then he turned and flew away….
We moved on to find a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a post and Dick indulged me to grab this photo because the bird was right next to the road.
One of our last stops of the day was for this Great Horned Owl sitting in her nest. If you didn’t know she was there she’d be easy to miss.
Wherever Mama sits, Daddy is somewhere nearby and one of our participants spotted him right away. I went back another day but could not find him again.
Lucky us, our last sighting of the day was a Golden Eagle. Like any bird, he was not going to sit for us very long at this close distance, so in order for everyone behind the lead car to get a good look at him, we drove past him pretty fast after I took a few shots.
Sitting in the back seat, window down, driving fast over a very bumpy road I grabbed as many shots as I could while we drove by. This is a ‘drive-by-shooting’ in my world. I mostly got shots of his feet, his perch, and air ~ check out those talons! Lucky me, I also managed to capture this ONE shot. All in all it was an inspiring day filled with literally hundreds of raptors mostly in the Butte Valley and near the two refuges south of Klamath Falls, Tulelake and Lower Klamath.
Saturday’s keynote speaker was author and researcher Scott Weidensaul who shared his research on Snowy Owls and Project Snowstorm. Again my friend and I sat in the back row because there was no way we’d stay awake until the end of his talk after yet another full day that began too early. You guessed it…mesmerized by his talk, we stayed for his book signing because after hearing about Project Snowstorm we HAD to have his new book, “Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean” …with autograph of course!
Tomorrow will be our earliest wake-up call ~ 4:30am to get to our field trip on time….