Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk, a gorgeous raptor which breeds in the Artic, comes south in the winter through Canada to stay in much of the U.S. in order to find food. We see them here in rural Central PA towards the middle of winter, in good numbers. They are also found in Asia, Europe and Greenland unlike our other buteos. Their feet are covered with feathers, hence the name “Rough-legged.” Rough-leggeds have two color morphs, light and dark, and are strikingly patterned. There are also differences according to age and sex. The bird pictured […]

Winter Birding

Ring-necked Pheasant

The sun finally came out this morning in rural Central Pa, so I braved the crazy 4 degrees with ear muffs, hand warmers, gloves, heavy coat and boots, and went birding! For four hours!! With the bright snow and the intense sunlight, I was less than happy with the umpteen pictures I took, but it was still fun. I put the seat warmer on, put the window down so I could hear the Horned Larks flying over the fields, and drove the back roads. This is winter road birding at […]

Northern Harrier–The Gray Ghost

Northern Harrier

Gray Ghost, male Northern Harrier, Marsh Hawk; all names of this unique hawk which hunts low over open ground or marsh. Long and slender, with wings often held in a dihedral or V-shape, its flat head makes it look something like an owl when it flies. Another owl-like feature is a facial disk which aids the hawk in hearing rodents below in the grasses. This is seen more easily in the female whose plumage is very different from the male, with its dark brown back and heavily streaked under-wings. Both […]

Bald Eagles at Conowingo Dam

Bald Eagle

  Photographing eagles at Conowingo Dam along the Susquehanna River in Maryland, has to be one of the most thrilling experiences of a photographer’s life. At least it is, if the eagles are there! There are no guarantees that they will show up in big numbers, or that they will be active for more than a few minutes every hour or two, but when conditions are right, the sound of thousands of camera shutters going off continuously can really raise one’s adrenaline! From early November to the end of December […]

Eurasian Wigeons and American Wigeons: Contentious Cousins

Eurasian Wigeon

The Eurasian Wigeon which breeds in Iceland, Europe, and Asia, is a common visitor to America, and is a handsome bird with its rufous head and pinkish breast.  It shares some characteristics with its American cousin, the “Baldpate,” such as the cream-colored crown, white shoulder patch, and black at the back end. As stated in Audubon birds, The Eurasian Wigeon is usually found associating with flocks of its American counterpart. Like the American Wigeon, this species is unorthodox in its feeding habits: It spends much of its time grazing on land like […]

Forster’s Tern

Forster's Terns

The Forster’s Tern is a beauty, unique among the terns in winter with its black eye patch rather than a cap or crown. It’s also the only tern which lives almost entirely in North America. On a recent visit to Cape May, NJ, we came upon these beautiful birds vying for a spot on the railing of a dock. Forester’s Terns feed on fish, small crustaceans, frogs, and mollusks. They often hover before plunge-diving into the water after prey. In the East they prefer salt water marshes, and in the […]

Lincoln’s Sparrow

Lincoln's Sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrows are always a treat to see in fall migration in Pennsylvania.  Their finely streaked sides and breast, along with their buffy malar stripe and upper breast, an eye ring, and white throat and belly all combine to make for one handsome bird. s This fall I discovered some wonderful habitat for migrating sparrows and warblers.  At the bottom of a private lane of a neighbor, where field, prairie (shrubby grassland), and deep woods converge; dozens, if not hundreds of mostly sparrows are often found in the grasses, multiflora […]

Great Blue Heron Juvenile

Great Blue Heron

All About Birds states: Whether poised at a river bend or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats, the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage often stands motionless as it scans for prey or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck and long legs trailing out behind. Juvenile Great Blue Herons […]

Great Egret, Bathing Beauty

Great Egret

All birds bathe in order to maintain their plumage, but when a Great Egret takes a bath, it makes a big splash!  While kayaking this week at Montour Preserve, I noticed a Great Egret at the far end of the lake.  Keeping the sun behind me, I paddled up to a respectable distance from the bird and let the boat slowly drift towards the shore.  He deftly plucked one small fish after another from the shallows, and after downing at least 8 fish, he began to bathe. Down went his […]

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

The Olive-sided Flycatcher is a very conspicuous bird when it makes its appearance during migration, choosing the top of a snag, or in this case, a telephone pole wire on which to perch.  Except for the Great Crested Flycatcher it’s the largest flycatcher in our region, and is identified by its dark vest, white throat, large thick bill, and sometimes-visible white spots on either side of the rump. These white tufts stood out to me as I slowly drove down the road looking for warblers.  There is only one bird […]