Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Raptor Bytes - hawkwatching morsels from around the web

Battling Bald Eagles - Steve Beal
Not sure why but these raptor notes seem to be taking on a somewhat themed feel to them. Let's just roll with it shall we?

Eagle Festivals
Mid-winter can be tough on your average raptor enthusiast what with the beginning of spring migration still over a month away. Though there’s winter bird surveys to do (link here), looking for something to really entertain the less fanatical birders in your clan isn’t always as easy. That’s why when I lived in New England I always looked forward to the area's various Eagle Festivals. Even as a hard bitten hawkcounter that has racked up daily flights of almost 100 eagles at Braddock Bay (hawkcount link), it’s hard not to still get excited by any encounter with a Bald Eagle. As anyone who has stood at a hawkwatch with a group of kids, or adults, knows, just one eagle can inspire game changing awe, so when you get the opportunity to share a bunch of them with other people you have to grab it.

Personally I worked on the Connecticut Audubon Eagle Festival in Essex on the Connecticut River for a couple of years and it was quite simply amazing. Though they stopped running the festival a few years back, they still run the eagle viewing boats (details here), and if you've never viewed Bald Eagles from a boat you haven’t lived in my honest opinion! There are also excellent events run on the Hudson River near Croton (details here) and on the Merrimack River in Newburyport and Amesbury (details here). 

What are your favorite winter raptor events? Share them in the comments section or on the link from our facebook page.

Bald Eagle - Steve Beal
Eagle Myths?
I'm sure you've all heard the story that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the Wild Turkey should be the national symbol rather than the Bald Eagle. The truth of the matter is he really didn't. What he did do was complain in a private letter to his daughter, after the eagle had been chosen as the national symbol, that veterans' organizations might be better off using the turkey rather than the eagle (a symbol often used by European monarchies) for their organizations symbols (more here). Thanks to Rick Wright for steering me towards this, his blog has lots of fascinating posts about birds including things like 'Are Bald Eagles really Bald' (link here)!

Eagles in North American Birds
The most recent North American Birds, which is published by the American Birding Association (website here) and available to members for an additional subscription, has an excellent article (here) concerning a possible White-tailed Eagle that was reported from late April at Derby Hill in 1995. Though rejected by the state rare records committee, the sighting has been included in a number of publications on raptors. This most recent paper reevaluates the report referencing important developments in White-tailed Eagle identification. It's a fascinating article and one that is well worth a read. You can also read the original NYSARC (New York State Avian Records Committee) reasons for rejecting the report on their website (here). Worth noting that Derby is one of the sites closest to Braddock Bay, will be one of the conference field trips, and the date almost corresponds to our 2014 conference date (details here)! Not sure we can promise you a repeat of a rarity of that magnitude, but it does show the incredible potential of hawkwatches in the region.

Wild Russian Eagles
Talking of Eurasian eagles, I wonder if anyone else has been catching the rather excellent Wild Russia documentary series that is being aired by Animal Planet here in the US. The Kamchatka episode had some amazing footage I rather enjoyed of dueling eagles. Though this clip doesn't show the best of it, the Golden Eagle tangling with the heftier Stellar’s Sea Eagles was incredible.

Thanks to Steven Beale for the use of the Bald Eagle shots. You can see more of his excellent work on his photo blog (here). 

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