Hawk Owl by Dave Johnson & Wild Turkeys by Billie Stark
Birding around Brattleboro in the snow today(1/18), I found what turned out to be a flock of ~40 WW Crossbills in a hemlock tree at the corner of Putney Rd and Terrace St. Initially, I thought there were ~4 crossbills; however, they kept popping out of the interior of the tree raising my estimate to ~15. Then they exploded out of the tree sending the snow flying, and I counted 42 crossbills flying off to the northeast. There were several flocks of Pine Siskins throughout Bratt. and W. Bratt., ranging from 6 to 50+ birds. Observing three large flocks of Cedar Waxwings (~130 birds on Bonnyvale RD, ~250 birds at CS Wholesale Warehouse on Putney Rd, ~100 birds on Maple St. by the park) produced no Bohemians.
This morning (1/24) there were at least 16 Bohemian Waxwings mixed in with about 175 Cedar waxwings by the C&S Warehouse on Putney Rd in Bratt.
---Dave Johnston, W. Brattleboro, VT
West B. Turkeys
This is the scene from under our feeder today (see attachment), during the snowstorm. We have had anywhere from 10 to 30 turkeys trapsing through our fields and woods, and then yesterday, they found our feeders, with the scratch on the ground underneath.
At one point, as they meandered there way out of the woods and across the back yard, a few of the larger birds, were literally "jumping" to reach the berries on the bittersweet vine by our treehouse. I have never seen this behavior before, but it was fun to watch as they stretched their necks, then rose up out of the snow in a quick jump! Another group of three climbed into a VERY thorny rose bush and were eating the rosehips. It was great entertainment. for a snowy afternoon.
---Billie Stark, West Brattleboro
HAWK OWL, IVORY GULL & More Delectables
I went to Center Harbor, NH on Saturday to see the Hawk Owl, a very cooperative bird (See attachjment). There were also Pine Grosbeaks, Bohemian Waxwings, and White-winged Crossbills at the same location on Coe Hill Rd. On Monday I made a quick trip to Gloucester for the Ivory Gull show and was not disappointed. It is indeed a beautiful bird, especially in flight. I thought the attached photo might be of interest to some. Locally there were 42 WW Crossbills feeding on cones in a hemlock tree on the corner of Terrace Ave. and Putney Rd during the snow on Sunday. Keep your eyes peeled. Good birding.
---Dave Johnston, W. Brattleboro, VT
A flock of perhaps 20 Bohemian waxwings were eating crab apples and regular apples at the (Marlboro) College today. There was also a single Robin.
---Bob Engel, Marlboro, VT
I have a Red-bellied Woodpecker visiting daily. Also I've seen many robins throughout the month.
---Mick Durante, Guilford, VT
There have been many Evening Grosbeaks around this week.
---Mitch Harrison, Wardsboro, VT
Northern Hawk Owl
On January 17, the NORTHERN HAWK OWL was perched on top of a tall pine tree on Rt. 118, just in back of mailbox 1111 in Eden, VT, exactly as your instructions indicated. The tree was no more than 10 yards off the road and the owl was facing the road, so we had a wonderful diagnostic look at it as soon as we pulled up. There were already four cars parked by the side of the road and a handful of birders enjoying the bird, which after a while flew a bit further off to the top of another tree, allowing us to study it from different angles.
The ease with which we found the bird partially made up for the disappointment we experienced on the rest of the trip, in that we were unable to find any other northern birds. Nonetheless, the hawk owl was a “lifer” for the both of us and more than made the trip worthwhile. The information and map you provided were key to finding the bird. We are both grateful for your assistance. Thanks very much!
---Molly Martin and Michael King, Marlboro, VT
Bellows Falls Eagles
Driving along the frozen Connecticut River in BellowsFalls Vt (1/23) I found two Bald Eagles. I watched them eating off of a dead deer carcass on the ice. (I parked in Combie's) I checked for them on my way back through three hours later and no signs of the eagles but the deer looked like the eagles had been there feeding for a while. Good birding!
Observation of a Coopers’ Kill
Friday, January 16th, 10 degrees and sunny in Newfane. We have suet and sunflower in the front yard, which this year has attracted a pretty steady presence of a dozen or more Blue Jays. Around 12:40 PM, I noticed a large-ish bird sitting on the snow, maybe 30 feet beyond the feeders, or around 70 feet from the house. Expecting nothing more than a mourning dove, I reached for the binos anyway to be sure. The bird was in the process of rapidly pulling loads of feathers out of a carcass on the ground. Obviously not a Mourning Dove, but also not any of the half-dozen raptors I can readily identify.
Miraculously, the bird stayed right there feeding for a solid hour. Plenty of time to set up my scope and consult several field guides. The definitive reference was Peterson’s 1987 guide to the Hawks by Clark & Wheeler. The immature Cooper’s Hawk had a heavily streaked breast and belly, banded tail, blocky head with a yellow eye well forward of center, and quite distinct white mottling on its wings (a juvenile feature not always mentioned in guides). It methodically tore into its prey, which did turn out to be a Blue Jay, feeding for several minutes, then pausing for a few minutes to look around. It is a lot of work to eat something 2/3 your own size!
Several interesting incidents. Activity continued at the feeders the whole while. Several of the Blue Jays ventured very near the Cooper, to a shrub less than 10 feet away. At the time, I thought it a touching moment. Lamenting a lost mate, a sibling, a comrade? One or two even alighted briefly near the Cooper, as if to taunt it. The hawk was unperturbed, and continued feeding, pulling out and swallowing long stringy bits of now-frozen meat.
Later, higher up on the lawn, in strode two Turkeys. The Cooper stopped feeding and looked around attentively. The Turkeys ignored the hawk and waddled over to underneath the feeder. They hung out there for perhaps 20 minutes, after which one of them walked over towards the Cooper. That was enough, and the hawk finally flew off. But it had eaten its fill, and I could see there was little left of the dead jay.
What happened next was a surprise. The blue jays returned and dropped down to the kill site to investigate. Mourning and weeping and lamentations over a lost comrade? Not quite. They were more interested in the scraps. I witnessed at least 2 jays picking out bits of remaining meat and swallowing them. When it is this cold out ( minus 9 that morning ), guess it doesn’t pay to be squeamish about cannibalism.
I donned boots and coat, and went out to investigate. Just feathers and blood stains - something had hauled away the entire carcass in the few minutes it took to get there. There were a number of wing-marks in the snow where the blue jays had landed. Better yet, there were some much larger wing-marks that had to have been the Coopers. There was one set with a very clear tail and wings, and a deeper indent where the body had hit. Another was perhaps a foot further up in the direction of travel - this one had a blood stain. The hawk had been feeding yet another foot farther along in the same direction. It looked like it had driven the jay into the snow, bounced and drew blood by the second touchdown, and it was all over on the third landing.
Easily among the most memorable events I have seen in more than 20 years of birdwatching!
---Steve Squires, Newfane, VT
P.S. - Al, thanks so much for doing these birding emails. I seldom participate in organized birding anymore, and have met you only once. Between your emails and Chris Petrak’s column, interested birders get a pretty good account of what is around in the area. Nice work :-).
Please keep us abreast of what birds you are seeing, whether at home or on a trip in or out of the Windham County area.
W. Brattleboro, VT
A friend is someone who reaches for your hand
and touches your heart.