Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Goshen Goshawk Still Around, and Are You Looking for a Winter Getaway?

Got a note from Bert Hixon, CMBO bookstore naturalist at the Center for Research and Education in Goshen, about possibly the same Northern Goshawk I saw here a week ago:


I might have seen your imm. N. Goshawk here over the weekend.

-On Saturday, I saw a super-robust, obviously young Accipiter at dusk trying to poach around the bird feeders. Smaller head, large body, big and fast as lightning.

-On Sunday, I thought I saw the same bird perched in the Sassafras trees behind the two martin houses at the back of the yard. I was scoping it up and saw a faint white-ish supercilium but confirmed that it had irregular tail-bands on the underside. It hung there for around 15 minutes preening and head-bobbing as it watched the backyard. Then I turned my head for a nanosecond, and before I could imagine it, it launched a surprise attack on the bird feeders. This hawk was supernaturally fast.

Instantly came a horrendous, sickening CRASH-ing sound from the bay window looking out at the bird feeders. I was sick with the thought of what I might find.

As soon as I walked out onto the porch by the feeders, it was fortunately the Gos that lifted off from the undergrowth beneath the feeders with a RWBB [Red-winged Blackbird] firmly in its grip.

The crashing sound came from two other RWBB's who impacted the window simultaneously with the attack by the Gos."

In talking with falconers, rehabbers, and banders, I've learned that Accipiters are extremely high-strung compared to other raptors. One falconer told me that if you had a redtail on one fist and a goshawk on the other and flushed a rabbit, the redtail would be leaving your fist about the time the goshawk caught the rabbit. I was in a blind on the Kittatinny Ridge a couple years ago when the bander I was with caught a Cooper's hawk. I firsat spotted that bird with binoculars when it was at least 1/2 mile away, and at that distance, when the bander fluttered her lure pigeon, the coop immediately locked in on it and began its approach, which says something about both taut nerves and extreme eyesight.
If you come looking for the Goshawk, know that seeing it is a long shot and also that there is a big female coop hanging around. If you're wondering about Bert's comment about the small-headed look of the bird, goshawks don't exactly have small heads but they are broad heads, not so much projecting forward a la coop. The head as seen from directly below is more like a triangle projecting forward from the wings.

In other news, CMBO is partnering with the John F. Craig House B&B to offer a winter birding weekend January 26-27, 2008. It will feature an evening program on winter birding in Cape May, and a morning excursion to local hot spots. Check http://www.johnfcraig.com/specials.html for details. This might make a nice holiday present for casual birders, or serious birders who need to relax.

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