Thursday, May 5, 2011

New birds for me @ EPCAL

Had a wonderful vacation down in Florida - not too much on the bird photography front though I did find some Mottled Ducks (which happened to be waiting) so it was a new species for me.  Also had a wonderful experience with a family of Barred Owls and Limpkins - but only had the iPhone camera handy for those!  Photos to come.  In the meantime - enjoy these shots from EPCAL today.

When I first got to the site I was looking down while driving the runway (at a slow - safe speed) adjusting my camera settings and when I looked up this Red-tailed Hawk had exploded out of the grasses (I think it had been eating when I inadvertently disturbed it) with a snake in it's talons.  I've never noticed a snake @ EPCAL and never seen a RTH with one so that was pretty cool.  As it approached the treeline a Kestrel came to harass it for a bit and the hawk then disappeared behind the tall pines.

Shortly after that I came across this Eastern Kingbird - the first time I've seen this grasslands species at this site.  It was having a grand time hawking dragonflies and other insects (see the top of this post).

While leaving the site through the maine south entrance, two grackles flushed this Baltimore Oriole out of the trees adjacent to the pond and I was able to snap off a quick photo which appears to show some bit of food in the Orioles beak (a caterpillar perhaps?).

Other birds seen at the site were tons of Barn Swallows, a murder of Crows, about 12 American Kestrels (way down in number from right before easter when I had at least 30 on just the Western runway), plenty of deer, some Eastern Bluebirds and a few marmots (groundhogs) on the northern radar parcel.

Also, as I was leaving the runway a Riverhead police officer pulled up to me (I guess he had seen me while he was driving through) and asked me if I had a reason to be on the runway.  I told him that I was doing photography of wildlife (and had my camera on the seat next to me).  He said that "they dont' really want people on the runway - I guess because it's an emergency landing strip - so just keep that in mind, ok?"  The officer was very nice and it was clear he didn't have a problem with me there, but that it's not the most favorable use of the site. So just keep that in mind!

If you are interested in learning more about hawks, I recommend picking up this book - Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors - which has everything you need to know about ID'ing these birds when they are far off - like the Red-tailed hawk was when I spotted it today.

Hawks at a Distance: Identification of Migrant Raptors

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