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Borrego Springs, CA

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Counting down to the storm

Thursday is my usual day for the bird surveys on the refuge, and I headed out this morning to try to get them in before the approaching latest ‘Polar Vortex’ arrives.  The Houston area is in a tizzy about the possibility of freezing rain and temps in the 20’s overnight.  Many school districts have already cancelled school for tomorrow.  Being from the north, it sometimes makes me chuckle.  No school because there might be 1/10” of ice and some freezing rain?   Up north I remember school only closing if there was over a half a foot of snow or wind chills below –40* F.  IMG_5675

Anyway, on my drive to the refuge this morning I once again came across that perplexing, to me, raptor that I encountered a week ago.  I had a more satisfying view of it today, and just like last week it posed for me.

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This time I could definitely see that its wing feathers were longer than its tail feathers.  The white spot on its upper chest was also more defined. 

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A couple of commenters last week suggested it might be a juvenile White-tailed Hawk, and I have to agree.  While these aren’t the best photos, they sure did help me for ID confirmation.  Anahuac is on the northeast edge of its range.  This bird will look a whole lot different in a year or two.

I’m enjoying noticing the differences each week in the plots that I survey.  Last week a bald eagle was sitting in the middle of one of the areas, and the usual mallards that I find there were no where to be seen.  This week, the mallards were back.  I’ve also noticed a big influx of shorebirds in one of the areas this week.  Could it be that the lengthening days are making some species experience the first inklings of hitch itch to head north?

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My young friend, the juvenile black-crowned night heron, was in its usual location.  It looks so small here, but is really about 25” long.  At this stage, it has great camouflage for its life among the reeds.

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On my way back to the VIS for a bathroom break, I noticed a lump in the gravel road.  I slowed down, and found that lump to be an American bittern.

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First time I’ve ever seen one in the middle of the road.  They kind of skulk along when they walk rather than standing up straight.

It was a pretty good bird day for me, but the highlight of the day came while I was scanning one of the survey plots with my spotting scope.  I was mesmerized as I got to witness an adult Peregrine Falcon taking a bath in one of the moist soil units!  Now that’s a day to remember!  It was too far away for any photos, but I’ll never forget the experience.

I only got five of my seven survey areas done today, as I had to go to Anahuac for a physical therapy appointment.  The PT lady put me through quite a work out that I’m sure I’ll feel tomorrow, but it sure beats surgery.  So far, so good.

With the temps forecasted in those 20’s overnight, I turned off the water to the rig when I got home after putting some more water into my on board tank.  Then I got an email from Stephanie telling the volunteers not to do any work tomorrow until the temps increase.  Guess she doesn’t want any of us seniors slipping and falling down where we can’t get up!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

33 comments:

  1. A white-tail hawk, eh? Well, it's either google that or wait until April when I have the proper field guide. So much for the Harlan's idea...... Hope the PT goes well.....

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  2. Enjoy your cool day off. I lived in Houston for three years over 40 years ago and remember how they would panic at the thought of ice and freezing temps:). I am not surprised that it is still the same.

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  3. I remember walking to school in snow. Back in the '40's and '50's they rarely closed school, but then we all lived within walking distance. I doubt if I ever saw a school bus in the city. WOW! I'm old.

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  4. Snow flurries here in Southwest Mississippi, tonight. About 1/4 inch of snow on the roof of my truck. Of course, all schools are cancelled for tomorrow.:-) Loved the pics of the hawk. Take care, and don't slip on the ice.......

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  5. Hope you and Emma are snugly warm!
    The raptor is magnificent! And the American bittern crossing the road is quite a site!
    Glad to near the PT is helping!

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  6. Beautiful hawk ... it sure is blowing out there now, hope it's not nearly as bad where you are.

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  7. We have to laugh too at the Southerner's fear of winter precipitation. They'd never survive real winter conditions!

    Congrats on IDing that hawk, I knew you'd figure it out. You have a reputation to protect. ;c)

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  8. Most cities in the South don't have the equipment to handle ice and snow on the roads. You don't want to be on the road with people that haven't driven in snow in 15 years.

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  9. I'm kind of perplexed about the closures, too. When I lived in Placerville, CA, I had a 4-wheel drive car and slowly made my way to the plowed roads and Highway 50, down into town to work. I never missed a day. One of the lawyers in town has a 4-wheel car and would go and pick up any of his staff who were afraid to drive in. We just all got to work. And that was my first experience having snow where I lived. I mean, back East, they have snow every year, right? And they closed down the government in Wash, DC one day? It doesn't seem like a foot of snow is that much. Oh, well. Enough of that.

    Love your bird shots, as usual, and especially the skulking one. That's so funny. :)

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  10. Well, Judy, I guess you get a "snow" day tomorrow, or at least until the weather warms up. :-)

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  11. I'm hunkering down in my motor home, listening to the wind gusts and watching the outside temperature drop - from a high today (Abbeville, LA) of about 65F to the current 34F at 11:30pm. Bet it'll be in the 20s when I wake up in the morning. Brrrr. Love your hawk photos today!

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  12. Love the bittern photos. That bub's got places to go, things to do...

    I'm based in the extreme northeast but spent a few winters in southern Virginia on the coast. I used to get a chuckle out of their snow/ice panics but I learned to stay OFF the roads down there when they were snowy/ice because those people are absolutely clueless about how to drive in such weather, and were apparently unwilling to learn because they repeated the same thing every time it snowed! Ick. Here life just goes on; you might put shovels and more sand in the car but you just go. Carefully. So watch and chuckle but stay out of range....

    Sarah

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  13. How wonderful that you got to see a Peregrine Falcon. We saw one at a re-hab center once and I was enthralled, but to see one in the wild would be much better. Stay warm.

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  14. Loved reading about your count day. Meant so much more after visiting and learning from you in person.

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  15. What wonderful photos you have today. I have never even heard of two of those birds. What a cool place to volunteer.

    Thank goodness here is Houston we did not get the ice they were calling for. These people can't drive in rain let alone ice.

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  16. I spent most of my career as a nurse in the south and we HAD to get to work but there was always lots of folks who would not drive--we even had to cancel surgeries as the patients would not drive either. Here in Montana we just get out and go.

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  17. You sure come up with a lot of birds I've never heard of but then all I know is eagle, hawk, robin and sparrow!

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  18. Hope you are all warm, dry and cozy. Hunker down and wait out that nasty stuff :)

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  19. Mary-Pat, welcome to Abbeville. I live about 10 miles South. We are having the coldest weather we have had in quite a few years. So much for living on the coast. Most years we only have a few nights of freezing temperatures. I have a cold so not getting out and spreading my germs around.

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  20. ... and we are experiencing record high temps! Go figure.

    I think you must pay those hawks to pose for you!! And that dude skulking along on the road looks like an old crabby man shamblin' along.

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  21. 1/10th of an inch of ice would spell disaster for school bus drivers in Houston -- even for those in northern Illinois where we know a thing or two about winter driving.

    Great photos. Keep warm.

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  22. Love the bittern and the raptor! Wonderful photos!

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  23. Great pics of the raptor! Saturday may be a good day to stay inside and stay warm and dry!

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  24. Thanks for a very instructive post. I ran into the same problem in the Brazos Bend area - think I was at one of the NWR over there. I couldn't ID the hawks and tried to make them into Harris Hawks But a staffer told me they were white-tailed juveniles.

    Last Sunday, on the boardwalk, just after I took all the pictures of the feeding Anhinga - ones in last blog - we saw from the top of the tower, what looked like a very large snapping turtle. I grabbed my binoculars and saw it was an American Bittern, wading or swimming in the same position as your bird, with its head against the water. It spent over an hour in front of us, sometimes almost hidden in small clumps of grass and sometimes mostly in the open. It caught a few fish or invertebrates but just grabbed them and swallowed. No production like the anhinga makes.

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  25. Wow, those were some great shots you got.

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  26. If some choose to drive over bayous, rivers and overpasses frozen over with 1/2 inch of ice......go ahead, it is not the same as frozen snow. Us southern folks know better. This year Judy spends the whole winter in Anahuac and will be real personal with wet cold.

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  27. Someone told me that the closures are due lack of equipment and supplies to service the area. A bit dangerous. But, it also seems strange to me since Indiana has the equipment to take care of the roads.

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  28. The hawk and night heron and bitterns are great photos. Stay warm!

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  29. Can't wait to add that hawk to our lifelist, that is a gorgeous raptor.

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  30. oh wow. . .what really great pics of the hawk, and I envy you your observation of the Peregrine Falcon. . .amazing. The Rangers at Acadia NP told us we were viewing a pair of juvenile Peregrine Falcons this summer. . .but they were so far away, as to just be black specks. . .so I hafta take their word for it. Lucky you, even it was just with the spotting scope. . .

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  31. Beautiful hawk images - and what a bizarre behavior for the bittern!

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  32. Nice post.Thanks for sharing this in your blog

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