Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011
So, I'm not sure if a "riot of raptors" is actually the correct term...like a gaggle of geese, a convocation of eagles or an exaltation of larks, but a "riot of raptors" certainly seems apt after the past week's observations on and around the Refuge.
Within the past week - almost every type of raptor, ranging from common to uncommon, has been spotted on the Refuge, and chatter about the rarer visitors to Northern Utah has been all over the other bird sightings websites. Volunteer, Kris Purdy, while surveying the Refuge for landbirds last week had a Merlin along the Refuge access road, as well as a Golden eagle. Both Golden and Bald eagles have been seen in increasing frequency now that the land and water is freezing over.
The following day after Kris's survey, I had the chance to drive the loop and had amazing views (of course I had forgotten my camera ...d'oh!) of Northern harriers, Rough-legged hawks, Bald eagles, American kestrels, a Peregrine falcon and a very cooperative Short-eared owl! The following day we had several Barn and Great horned owl pellets left around the Wildlife Education - signaling to us that they were NOT to be left out of the "riot." And then, to add to the list just this past Friday, while driving out to clean the Refuge restrooms at the start of the Auto Loop - spotted a nice Prairie falcon enjoying its recent kill.
Also, eventhough they are not raptors, it has also been a great time to view the very raptor-like little shrikes. We have both Loggerhead and Northern shrikes on the Refuge right now, perching on road signs and fences and watching for prey...mmmmmmmm.
So, even though the numbers of waterfowl are much lower due to frozen over wetlands, and the tundra swans have mostly headed to southern california, if you're a fan of raptors as I am . . . a tool around the loop in frigid but sunny temps is still worth the while.