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Monday, March 2, 2009

In Like A Lion

If the first few days of March are any indication, we're in for a month of unpredictable weather and great wildlife sightings. Last night the winds were so fierce they woke me up in the middle of the night (and I sleep like a log) and left us wondering if in the morning we would still be attached to the dock. Today, however, it was calm and 55 degrees was balmy enough to read on the front porch chair in the sunlight in the morning and drive with the windows down in the afternoon.

Yesterday was similarly warm (just think - in six months 55 will seem very cold!) but was more dark and overcast. Still, I trekked down to the south end of the island thinking I would spend some time with the red-tailed hawks. The only one I saw was this member of the South Pair, now designated RTH4 (or, to make it easier for me and you, Mario) and thought to be the male. RTH3, the supposed female, is a rufous morph (hence I'll call her Rufous), but RTH4 is a dark morph. Both of them are quite skittish compared to the North Pair, so photographic opportunities have been sparse, but here is a photo of RTH4 Mario in a favorite perch of his, a shrub near Cattle Point Lighthouse. He's got a very red chest and legs, which are even more apparent in the larger version of the photo (click to see), and he also has some white spots on the back of his head that make him easy to identify when perched:


While Mario soon spooked and flew away and no other red-tails were to be found, there were plenty of other raptors to observe. This adult bald eagle watched my progress with great interest from one of the only fir trees in the area:


A female northern harrier also flew over to check me out. Earlier in my hike I had accidentally spooked her off the ground and she flew away with a rat in her talons - the first evidence I've actually seen of any of the south end raptors making a kill. She must have stashed it somewhere and come over to get a better look at her intruder, because she circled overhead and then disappeared again. Notice the very long tail:


This cheeky little red fox also came through, apparently making its rounds as it stopped every so often to mark its territory. It wasn't fearful at all, and just gave me a passing glance as it trotted on by, right next to me on the trail:


Back home as the sun set the clouds broke enough to shine through onto Brown Island just across the channel. I think this is some of the most striking lighting, when you see sunlit trees against a backdrop of a dark gray sky. The dark water and deep shadows in the foreground just make it seem even more menacing:


Yesterday ended with a partial rainbow that disappeared as the sun dipped below the horizon:

7 comments:

Vera said...

The zoomed-in picture of the fox is amazing!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Hi Monika

Now there's a challenge - to get a better fox photo than that...impressive, ours let you get about half a mile from them - in the dark!

What is the latin name of your Northern Harrier? Looks very like our Hen Harrier.

Not seen any orcas on 'orca cam' yet but I keep looking...wow an arm chair tick from 5000 miles. Do they count?

Cheers

Dave

Warren Baker said...

Oh Wow! some great Raptors you have there Monika. i'm so jealous!
The tail on that fox is different to our local fox's, your ones seem to have a black tail with a white tip.

Monika said...

Vera - thanks!

Dave - Unfortunately I think a lot of our foxes are so tame because they get handouts from good-intentioned people. In the summer especially they look so scrawny a lot of people think they're underfed. Tourists also love to feed them to get that good photo op. Yes, the northern harrier is the same species as your hen harrier! As for the orca cams, you'll have better luck as we get into April and May, and then our peak months from June-August. Good question about the armchair tick!

Warren - It's funny, because I'm jealous of many of the birds you've been posting about too! I think we're supposed to have the same species of fox, but perhaps different morphologies? The white tip to the tail is the diagnostic ID mark for our local foxes.

Heather said...

Yes, that fox is quite handsome. It's a shame they have no fear of humans. Do they get hunted there? And I'm with you about the sunlit trees against a darkened sky - that coloring is hard to beat.

Monika said...

Heather, the foxes aren't hunted here, and neither are the deer (very much anyway). That contributes to both of them not being people-shy, too.

T and S said...

That image of the brown island is spectacular. The break in the clouds lighting up just that island is so mesmerizing. Beautiful image