Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Good Day at the Butte

The breeze was westerly, and just enough to bring the hawks down the western edge of Surveyor's Ridge. I was at the southern end of that 35-mile-long ridge, at Bonney Butte, a place that concentrates southbound hawks, falcons, eagles, ospreys and vultures in fall. Hiding in a ridgetop blind that melded with the trees, I tried to capture as many of those migrating raptors as I could, banding and taking measurements of each before sending them back on their way.

I captured 17 hawks yesterday, including 9 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 5 Cooper's Hawks, and 2 Red-tailed Hawks. Many of them came in waves, and this kept me hopping, balancing the banding/measuring with trying to capture more at the same time.

The best bird of the day was the female Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) pictured above. She was a second-year bird with orange eyes (in her year of hatch she had yellow eyes, and as a full adult she'll have deep red ones). Her annual molt was nearly complete, with a few brown wing and tail feathers not yet replaced by the striking gray feathers that she'll sport for the remainder of her life. I was glad that Vince and Sarah, a couple from Portland, were there to watch the capture and to see at close hand and to briefly hold this beautiful wild creature.

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