Earth Day Birding

IMG_0217I got up early this morning after sleeping out on the porch with my daughter. She had one side of the U-shaped couch. I had the other. She didn’t wake up until I left. In fact, she didn’t wake up until long after I had gotten home. I headed to Shelburne Pond before the sun came up. It was cool–39 degrees–and mostly clear. I had about a half hour before the sun rose.

There were the usuals singing away–Red-Winged Blackbirds, Swamp Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Cardinals, among others. A few Canada Geese paddled about not far from shore. A Wood Duck was silhouetted against the water. I hiked up the trail after watching the water for a while. The sun rose as I walked the woods.

I saw four Downy Woodpeckers chasing each other around and chirping at each other. I had never seen that before. I heard something singing down in the wetland–something whose song I could not remember–but I never got a look at it. I saw some Ring-Necked Ducks and a Common Goldeneye diving for breakfast. Then I saw an owl. OK it wasn’t an owl. I saw an owl in the same spot once before so I imagined it was an owl. It turned out to be a hawk.

I always think Red Tailed Hawk when I see any hawk, because they are so common, but it clearly wasn’t that–too small and the wrong markings. I have gotten to the point where I try to notice key details right away. Does it have bands on its underside? Does it have bands on its tail? What color is its back? That kind of thing. Right away I narrowed it down to three possible candidates. Once it flew and I got a better look at its tail, I narrowed it down to two. I walked up the trail further and then I heard it call. Boom: Red Shouldered Hawk.

Red Shouldered Hawks are not common around here. I have seen them several times in Florida, and once last year at another nearby location, but never at this spot. Looking for birds is full of surprises like that. I so was not expecting to see a Red Shouldered Hawk. Nice way to start the day.

In the afternoon I headed to Lagoon Road. This is a birding hotspot these days as migrating birds find the wet areas there a great place to stop over. It is next to a water treatment plant, which seems to be a favored spot for birds in lots of places. Right off I saw Northern Shovelers, one of which is pictured above. Check out the schnozz on that dude! I had seen them from a distance on Lake Champlain about a month ago for the first time, and these were right there. So cool!

I also saw a whole bunch of sandpipers. They only pass through here in spring and fall. They breed up north. A couple were here earlier than usual so, again, it was exciting. I added three new birds today for my list for the year. Not bad for a rainy Earth Day. If it isn’t raining too hard in the morning I will rise early and try to be surprised again. And I’m guessing I will be back before my daughter wakes up. I won’t be getting her to listen to a dawn chorus with me any time soon, I can tell you that.

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