Raptor A Day

When I was in Arkansas in December, the first thing I heard when I got out of the car at the research station was a pair of barred owls hooting a duet. The next two days I saw and heard barred owls. I decided to make it a personal goal during the ivory-bill search to experience at least one barred owl a day. I succeeded. The bird in the photo is one that showed up right outside the main trailer the day before we left. These guys were as common as red-tailed hawks.

The experience reminded me of about four years ago I had a New Year's Goal to try and see at least one (wild) raptor a day. I had noticed that almost daily on my way to work I would see a peregrine falcon or red-tailed hawk. Of course there was also the usual Cooper's hawk in the neighborhood or the occasional kestrel patrolling the area. I figured, how hard could it be? The first year I tried it, I completely forgot about my goal until January 3--oops, must have partied too hard that New Year's Eve. The second year I got off to a good start and then one day in early February I forgot about my goal until after sunset and was too lazy to go out and look for a great horned owl when it was negative 7 degrees. Then I kind of put it off for a couple of years, because in the winter we have only eight hours of daylight, and it was hard to manage the goal around my hours at the bird store and such limited daylight.

This year I am inspired to try it again. I have more schedule flexibility and the opportunity to see some really nifty raptors in my travels, so I have decided to give it a go. Also, since I'm in the habit of updating the blog on a regular basis, I can incorporate my daily dose of raptors in the entry therefore serving as my reminder.

So, the goal is one wild raptor a day. That means educational birds sitting on my fist--no matter how cool they may be, even if it's a white phase great horned owl-- will not count. Raptors that I pick up injured or that are in a net when hawk trapping will not count. Turkey and black vultures will not count. All others are fair game, I just need to see at least one a day.

I started off rather cocky today and decided to go for one of the three snowy owls that have been seen on a regular basis at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. This morning while getting dressed, Non Birding Bill suggested, "Shall we go out for breakfast and then look for your raptor?" I was surprised to hear NBB actually suggest a birding outing--especially a snowy owl. Last week he informed me that he wasn't that interested in them because he thought for an owl, they weren't very well proportioned. He has nothing against the snowy owl, he just prefers the shape of owls like barn owls to snowy owls. Before anyone decides to send any emails over that statement, let me just say that the fact that NBB knows the difference between a snowy and a barn owl is huge progress. I may soon have to find another moniker for him, he's starting to sound suspiciously like a birder.

Anyway, we had a New Year's Breakfast, headed to the airport and found oodles of birders but no snowy owl (I have to say airport security has been VERY tolerant of all the birders who ignore the "No Parking" signs or the signs that warn to stay away at least six feet from the fence). We weren't having much luck and I wasn't too put out at first, because I had already seen a snowy at the airport a couple of weeks ago and I figured that it would only be a matter of five minutes before we saw one of the other usual raptors that hang out there like a red-tailed hawk, kestrel or peregrine falcon. After twenty minutes, we didn't see anything. I decided to head onto the highway where a raptor can easily be found. Sure enough, after only two miles going east on 494 I found a red-tail perched on the driver's side of the car--then the flood gates opened--there was a immature bald eagle, there was another red-tail, etc.

After we got the raptor we went to watch King Kong at the Mall of America--not my first choice for a movie theater but we were so close to the area and the movie was getting ready to start. It wasn't bad, although sometimes I get the sense that Peter Jackson tries to work in every ending idea he has into an ending and it can go a little long. Overall, we enjoyed it and glad we saw it as a matinee. I did give a snort when I heard a loon call on King Kong's island. NBB leaned over and whispered, "Hey, maybe it's a giant killer loon." He's so clever!

When the movie finished I told NBB that I didn't see much in the way of a body of water that would support a regular sized loon, much less a giant killer loon--except the ocean, and that would have meant they were migratory loons and loons are not supposed to call when they are out to sea. To which NBB retorted, "Oh, but you have no problem with dinosaurs running around all over the place?" NBB also threw in, "You women are all the same." Adding in a mock female voice, "Oh, I know he's killed a bunch of people but he took me ice skating so he can't be that bad. You just don't understand him like I do. Please, don't kill him."