January 16 – Gosh – Raptor Rapture

Yesterday (January 15th) began, as many days lately have begun, with birding Anchorage neighborhoods filled with Bohemian Waxwings and a few American Robins, but no Hawfinch.

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So, I thought I’d next try one more time for the Northern Hawk Owl, which I also had not been able to find in previous hunts. This time (about noon), however, as I drove the road where it had been reported (Hood Lake Drive), there it was, perched like a little unmoving knob on a light post. Maybe it had been there before?

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As I watched, it flew to a nearby spruce, and I was able to get pictures through my front windshield.

I drove closer, and got a few more pictures, and it then flew to another spruce, and then another. Wonderful!

I thought that would be it for raptors for the day. After all, it is Anchorage in mid-winter. But a couple of hours later as I looked out into our back yard (which I do regularly, hoping for a return of the Northern Goshawk), a small raptor flew in and perched in a birch, a slender Sharp-shinned Hawk. It stayed less than 10 seconds and flew off. I was able to get a few blurry photos of it through the branches. Wow, two raptors in less than 2 hours!

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About 15 minutes later, about 40 Mallards arrived, followed immediately by the Northern Goshawk, the first time I had seen it in midday (about 2:30). All the Mallards scattered, and the Goshawk disappeared after them, but returned about 10 minutes later to the closest birch in our yard, and then flew to a farther birch. It stayed perched in the birch for about half an hour, preening and glancing about, undoubtedly waiting for the Mallards to come back. But the Mallards did not return. Unfortunately, when it was in the closer birch, its back was to me, and when it flew up to the far birch, the camera focused on the branches and not the bird. Still, I did get a few photos that show that it is a Goshawk.

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I also got photos showing a very unhappy Red-breasted Nuthatch (the little dot at the top of the tall photo below) scolding the Goshawk, before the Goshawk flew.

As I write this, however, at about 8:45 AM on January 16th, the Mallards are back. There are about 50 of them out in the dark in our yard, eating food that I put out for them earlier on the snow. I guess they are gambling on the Goshawk not flying around in the dark, and on no nocturnal raptors happening by.

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