Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NH Lakes Region 2/9

The Sandwich Range, from North Sandwich, the 2 highest peaks are Mt. Whiteface Mtn.( left) and Mt. Passaconaway(right), the lower center in Mt. Wonalancet and I believe Mt. Walden on the far right.

I don't often travel to the New Hampshire Lakes Region, during the winter, but a few good birds seen regularly over the past few weeks seemed worthy of a "chase". A Northern Hawk Owl has been seen nearly daily for the past month in Center Harbor and about 2 weeks ago a few Hoary Redpolls joined a "mob" of Commons, at Tony Vazzano's home in nearby Center Sandwich.

I arrived in Center Harbor at 10AM and the Northern Hawk Owl was easily found right across the street from the Canoe Restaurant, at its perch, in a huge Oak tree about 30 feet from Rte 25. I only stayed a about 20 minutes to watch it, as it just sat tight surveying the area for prey. I figured I best get to Tony's house soon, as he'd said the redpoll activity subsides in the afternoon and I could always return to the Hawk Owl site in the afternoon.

A digi-bin of the "Center Harbor" Northern Hawk Owl

Twenty minutes later, I arrived at Tony's house where I was made to feel very welcomed to view the feeders from inside. He appreciated the bag of thistle seed I brought, because this flock, of up to 300 redpolls, is consuming upwards of 5lbs of thistle a day (at about 2 bucks a pound that translates to approx. $300 per month!). Apparently, I was the 96th person to visit the redpolls and all but 1, to date, had seen at least 1 Hoary, I was liking those odds! I haven't tried to chase down many of this species in the past. Last year at this time there had been many reports of Hoaries, closer to home, but I was busy packing and moving from my house in Gardner.
The "inside" view allowed close range study of a "dizzying" array of Common Redpoll plumages from darkly streaked immatures and females, deep red breasted males and a few brighter "tricky"males. Finally, after about 45 minutes, a nice bright male Hoary showed in a crab apple tree near one of the feeding stations. This "bright frosty" bird had very limited streaking on the flanks, a very stubby bill (looking as if it got punched in), clean under tail coverts and a nearly undetectable amount of pinkish "wash" on the breast.

Digi-bin shot of the Hoary Redpoll in poor light
A few minutes later the Lawsons (Bob, Janet and Barrett) came to visit along with Marcella (visiting from Costa Rica and liking beauty of snowy NH), one of them was honored as the 100th visitor. I was not sure what that prize was but they too brought a 5lb bag of Niger seed. Another 30 minutes or so passed and another Hoary showed, quickly ID'd by Tony as a female. She didn't stay very long and nor did the rest of redpoll flock and shortly after we all had to go our separate ways.

After leaving I drove some very scenic back roads to North Sandwich to a location where a flock of Bohemian Waxwings had been present for some time. The were few birds along these roads with the exception of a flock of Wild Turkeys, Blue Jays and a few robins but views of the Sandwich Range and Mount Chocorua were spectacular. Within a minute of leaving the car, near the small apple orchard I could hear at least 1 Bohemian Waxing calling, soon the flock of nearly 300 were in sight. While I have certainly seen my share of this species, it was the first time I had seen them feeding on regular apples.
Bohemian Waxwings take flight from eating apples off the snow

Mt. Chocorua from North Sandwich
On the return trip through Center Harbor I stopped at the Hawk Owl site and it was still at its "assigned work station". I watched it for another 20 minute and was fortunate to see it take a short flight and return to its perch in the oak.

Northern Hawk Owl in Center Harbor, NH


Owlman said...

Fantastic trip and awesome shots. Northern Hawk Owls are spectacular birds!

Tom Pirro said...

Thanks Owlman, I enjoyed the trip...the Hawk Owl was great and the H. Redpolls and Bo-waxies are one of the most hand some winter birds in the north east!

That was the 1st Hawk Owl I'd had in New England, the only other I'd seen was the great owl invasion a few years back up in Montreal. We had Horned, Saw-whet, Hawk, Boreal and a dozen Great Grays the same afternoon....perhaps I'll do a writeup on it some time...I'd gotten a few good shots of the GG's and Boreal.