Monday, November 11, 2013

The 15 Minute Redtail, and Other Notes

[This is not the Red-tailed Hawk of which I write in this post - that one was too far for a photo - , but you can still note one of the field marks - where the wing tips fall relative to the tail tip. If this were one of the accipiters, the wing tips would not be nearly as close to the tip of the tail. Forsythe NWR, NJ, Nov 8 2013. Click to enlarge photos. This is a juvenile, hence absence of red tail.]

"How do you know it's a redtail?"

How many times have I been asked that question, I wonder?  After 33 years (I just counted) since I identified my first redtail, the real answer is I no longer think about it. I've written before about the difference between identifying birds and recognizing them, and we can pretty much place all Red-tailed Hawks in the recognition pile, which means I don't know how I know it's a redtail, I just do.

Not good enough. So we talked about it. For 15 minutes of a two-hour walk, we spent time, and it was well-spent, on a distant Red-tailed Hawk.

In this case, the bird in question was perched on a pole way out in the marsh of Forsythe NWR, and because of a high wind was leaning forward to almost horizontal, assuming the position of a typical, horizontally-perched Osprey. But this bird lacked the white about the head, and especially was warmer toned (browner as opposed to gray-black) than an Osprey. It was biggish, thought smaller than an Osprey, and that the wing tips nearly reached the tail ruled out any of the accipiters. It was too chunky to be a falcon, which are also long-winged. It was a buteo, and it eventually turned to show the belly band of a redtail. So that's what it was.

[Number 306 on my NJ "Little Big Year," these Snow Buntings decided whether or not I would see them, not me. I was just in the right place: the beach at South Cape May Meadows, this morning.]

[If I ever encounter a jacket colored like the back of a female Ring-necked Pheasant, I'm going to buy it. The pattern disappears against almost all backgrounds. This one, almost certainly stocked for hunting, was off Buckshutem Road near Mauricetown, NJ on Saturday.]

[If you like to celebrate common birds as I do, then today was a day to celebrate Song Sparrows, since there were many around. Know this common sparrow, so you can tell it from others. Cape Island Preserve today.]

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