On January 23rd, sixteen of us ventured out along the back roads of Loudoun in search of raptors! And we found quite a few – 49 in fact, not including the vultures (at least 50)!
We consolidated ourselves into just four cars and had our walkie talkies ready so we could call out our sightings along the way. The day was great for this – a slight chill in the air but overall sunny and calm.
Here’s our list of Raptors from the trip and a few notes from our encounters:
Bald Eagles (3): At first, we saw just a lone juvenile sitting in a tree. Then an adult came flying in and usurped the position (it must have been a good look out spot). The adult stayed in the spot for a good while as we got our spotting scopes out to get even better looks. For the whole time we were at this spot, we kept scanning the big Bald Eagle nest for activity. The pair had been seen recently tending to the nest, making preparations for nesting. As we were about to go (yea, we had the scopes all put away and started to drive off), the pair flew into the nest! So, we backed up and got our scopes back out so we could spy on them a bit. It was great to see the male and female in there, fixing things up and getting ready for the egg laying. This pair of Bald Eagles seems to lay eggs a little later than others in the area but have been very successful with their fledglings. We look forward to watching them raise their 2010 brood.
Northern Harriers (4) and Red-tailed Hawks (29): At one of the fields we stopped at we had at least 8 Red-tailed Hawks hunting mice over a field. They liked to perch on posts in and along the field which gave us great opportunities to focus in on them. As we watched, two Harriers came in, coursing low over the grass, looking and listening for field mice (really voles). Their white rump patch was a give away as we saw them flying. The ones we saw were either females or juveniles, as we didn’t see any of the Grey Ghosts (males).
American Kestrels (3): One of the kestrels we found was in a tree on a road where we could pull out the spotting scopes for a good look. It was a male in full fabulous color.
Red-Shouldered Hawks (6), Coopers Hawks (2), Sharp-Shinned Hawk (1):The other raptors we saw were mostly while driving but we got some great views. Driving slow along the back roads, we were able to watch a Red-Shoulder sitting on a dead tree, maybe 30 feet away from us. We also watched a Red-tailed hawk feed on a deer carcass (see the fun we have! 🙂 ) The Coopers Hawks and Sharpie were pretty much seen in flight but one sat out on a wire giving us good views as we slowly drove by.
All in all, an excellent day. Owls were missing but we know they were out there watching us. We did hear one Barred owl calling at the wetlands….”who cooks for you?”
We also had a large kettle of about 50 Black Vultures soaring near Evergreen Mills Rd.
I posted a few photos to our Loudoun Wildlife Facebook page so you can check them out there.