Friday, November 30, 2012

Chasing the Hawk-owl

Pine Grosbeak

When my alarm went off, I wondered why it had.  It was still dark outside. Glancing at my phone, I noted the time. 4:30am; not any time for any reasonable person to be awake. Unfortunately for me, since I'm a birder, this was "normal" time.  I hopped up, grabbed my gear and headed downstairs. Rob was already awake.  By 5, we had loaded all our gear into my car and were set to take off.  No snow in the air just yet, but it was bitterly cold for a November morning.  I was glad the heat in my car has always worked better than any other system.

A cold, bleak dawn found us well on our way, headed north and east past Green Bay towards Door County where a Northern Hawk-owl had been found.  On the way, we chattered about birding, records, chasing, doing a big year, etc., the usual kind of chatter you hear from crazy birders like us.
After a short stop in Green Bay to grab some food (apparently Rob can't run on just birding alone... who does that? jk :D ) we were well on our way to where the Hawk-owl was hanging out.

Northern Hawk-owl is a fairly rare winter visitor to Wisconsin.  As far as I can tell, the last one to be seen in the state was seen during the great owl irruption of 04-05 at Harrington Beach State Park.  
I've seen dozens of these awesome birds in Northern Minnesota, where they are regular winter residents, but this was my first chase of one in Wisconsin.

After driving most of the way to Sister Bay, we arrived at the Hawk-owl spot around 8:30am.
The Hawk-owl obliged us by sitting in the open, on the power line as we drove up.  Two other birders were already present and watching the bird from the warmth of their cars.

We managed to get a few photos off before it flew back into the Spruce trees across the road.  It perched up momentarily where a flock of White-winged Crossbills mobbed it. Then it flew down out of sight before popping up farther back among the trees. The bird hung out among the trees for the better part of half an hour (during which we spent some time observing the other birds in the area (Crossbills, Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks, etc) before finally emerging and obligingly perching at the very top of a tall Spruce:

After a customary high-five and watching the bird for about an hour and a half, Rob and I called it quits (it was bitterly cold with a stiff 10mph breeze) and headed home.  

7 hours round-trip, an hour and a half on site, and I added a new bird to my WI state list.
It's not often I get to see two new state birds in the same week!  The Hawk-owl was a lifer for Rob and #312 for his WI year list. That's pretty impressive!

Til next time, Happy Birding!

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