Monday, January 18, 2010

First Sharp-Shinned Hawk

I had to abort my first attempt at Dune Rd. this morning as the high tide mixed with last nights rains flooded the road at the Quogue/East Quogue border.  Having to go up island I decided to give the Trumpeter Swans a visit with the hope of the skies clearing up.  Well, the skies were improved but the Trumpeters were still way North of either public access and weren't going to be cooperative.  On my return trip I thought I'd give EPCAL (Grasslands at the former Grumman Air Force Base in Calverton) a try in the hopes of seeing some Short-eared Owls.  Of course, the grasslands yielded nothing but a surreal scene of a lone white-tailed deer running full speed through the massive grassland area - a bizarre sight to see on Long Island which is so heavily dominated by woods, suburbs and sprawl.  With about an hour left prior to sunset, I had enough time to make another run at Dune Rd., this time from the Ponquogue Bridge side.  As I approached the bridge, my eyes scanned the telephone poles leading to the old bridge as I have seen falcons perched on these poles before and sure enough there was a brown raptor sitting on one of them.  When I got close enough to see/photograph it, I realized it was a Sharp-Shinned Hawk, a species which I've never seen or photographed before.

After getting some good record shots of the bird, I continued on under the assumption the road was no longer flooded (as it was now low tide).  Going over the bridge I spotted a Northen Harrier hunting over the wetlands, and another one hunting over the dunes as I turned West onto Dune Rd.  Unfortunately, the road was flooded out so I headed back hoping the Sharpie would still be around.  When I got over the bridge, it was still there and I parked my car trying to determine how best to photograph it (the sun was behind it, making it rather difficult to get a good photo).  Just then, the hawk dropped from its perch and came screaming toward my vehicle flying about 2 feet off the ground, it was so fast and direct I honestly thought it was going to come land in the passengers seat!  Well, it passed the open car window and continued north eventually landing on a low wooden perch adjacent to the roadway where it was quickly startled by passing vehicle and took off into someones back yard.  What a sight to see.  After reviewing the photos, I can make the assertion that this is a juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk, which looks almost identical to a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.  The easiest way to tell the two species apart is size, as the Cooper's is considerably larger, but it can be difficult if it is a female Sharpie (which are always bigger than their male counterparts) especially if there is no reference for scale.  Another way to tell the difference is the tail, as the Sharpie's tail is squared off and the Coopers' is rounded - also when trying to ID these birds you can look at tail length (shorter in Sharpies) and leg thickness (thicker in Coopers).  Here is a photo from last year of a juvenile Cooper's Hawk I found near Tiana Beach which shows how similar they can be:

No comments:

Post a Comment