Dangerous Skies

Greetings everyone!  We are currently dealing with a family emergency that has resulted in some unplanned travel.  Hoping for the best on that front (please keep Linda’s brother in your hearts and prayers for a speedy recovery).  As a result there is some downtime while waiting for updates and taking care of all the dogs.  Figured I would go ahead and crank out a post to help the time go by.  Since the pictures have already been processes, let’s head back to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  Unlike the previous posts from that wonderful birding area, this particular bird did not result in a new check mark in the bird list.  Although, they are slightly better than the shots taken at Yellowstone (link here)

From the collective set of Henderson shots so far, one would think this is a bird paradise – various waterfowl enjoying the peace and tranquility of a slow paddle on the calm pond waters.  Well, except for the coyote shots – thinking that Shoveler could have used a little less peace and tranquility (link here).  Whether the other birds realized it or not, there were predators patrolling the skies.  Not sure what it is about these Northern Harriers, but they have a sixth sense to stay as far away as possible from my camera’s reach.  Even with the Beast, it was difficult to really get a bead on these birds of prey.  This set of shots was taken at the extent of the glass – thus the fuzzy results … I mean umm style.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and some of the second day shots will come out better – sticking with the theme of first day shooting for now and these were the best out of the bunch.

Hit the jump to read more about these Raptors

These harriers have one very unique trait (at least from all the birds I’ve witnessed to this point).  They can hover in one spot – some form of air ballet with the wind.  Linda and came upon one in Havana IL that stayed so still in the air we were not positive it was even a real bird.  It was pretty windy that day so guessing that has a direct correlation on how well they are able to pull it off.  The specimens at Henderson were all keeping active doing their standard low, slow hunting circles.  As with the Yellowstone shots, I was unable to make any shots of them in the act of catching prey, but by the looks of the following shot something was about to have a very bad day.

The previous post pointed out most of the cool facts about this particular bird.  To no surprise, they  are considered Raptors.  Most of the hawks I’ve photographed eating prey were hanging out in the branches of a tall tree.  In contrast, the allaboutbirds.org website claims the Harrier prefers to eat on the ground.  Seems like an unnecessary risk especially with those sly coyotes roaming the lands.

Now this makes the previous fact a little more understanding.  They not only eat on the ground, they nest on the ground.  Again, no clue why they would expose themselves to extra elements of risk.  At least in trees the only real risk is other predators (a limited set when it comes to Raptors) and of course those blood thirsty killers referred to as cats.  Not exactly the most exclusive when it comes to mates, the male can have as many as 5 at a time.  I was unable to tell if this is a result of a greater abundance of female offspring or some form of bird swinging I probably don’t really want to know about.

To no surprise, they are small mammal hunters but are known to take down larger prey such as rabbits and ducks.  Get this, they’ll employ drowning to subdue these if they have to – lethal little bastards!  Seems they are similar to the owl in the sense they use their keen hearing to assist in identifying prey (they have facial hearing discs similar to owls).  Thanks to their reputation for mice control, they are generally left alone by hunters helping maintain a Least Concern Conservation status – however, it does appear their numbers are in decline mainly due to habitat loss and farmland pesticides.

Our friends over at Wikipedia lead with the Harrier’s other name, the Hen Harrier (implies that the Americas use the Northern reference).  They have the longest wing and tail relative to body size among the other raptors of North America.  There are distinct plumage colorings between the female (more brown) and the male (more grey). Adults tend to live in the 8 year range finding themselves as natural enemies with Short Eared Owls – they’ll harass each other to steall any prey they might have captured.  Guessing this doesn’t always turn out good for either species.  If in Europe and you see a Hen Harrier sitting on someone’s house .. best keep that to yourself rather than raise unneeded anxiety (lore has it you this represents three people are going to meet their fates).

All I have for you at the moment.  Do not really have all my usual array of resources available, which kind of limits my data.  Just about done with the first day’s birds at Henderson – once I finally figure out what a few of them are (driving me nuts) I’ll close out that day and .. wait for it… start work on the second day.  That would be the good news for the backlog, but the bad news is we are not that long from heading out there again to take ANOTHER set of pictures.  This time it will be a different season so hoping to pile up another huge quantity of bird list check marks!

7 thoughts on “Dangerous Skies”

  1. Cool raptors! I like the first shot even it it is somewhat b̶l̶u̶ styled. That’s weird about them eating and nesting on the ground. Being Harriers…can they rise vertically??

    I hope Linda’s brother gets well very soon.



  2. I’ve always wondered if harrier planes got their names from the bird .. and thus their patented vertical takeoffs, but nothing confirmed it in the bird references – did do some digging in Wikipedia and learned that it was indeed named after the bird, but because of its ability to hover (which as mentioned was witnessed). Secondly it doesn’t matter how you disguise it our manipulate it I know by my sixth sense that you are talking about a CLOWN and once again teetering on being banned… as far as Puffins go.. they do NOT look like a clown, they look like a PUFFIN. Additionally, for the record, I could have had a picture of a Puffin that would have probably won me ribbons for years to come, but a certain someone refused to take a quick trip to see them while we were in Maine. I remind a certain someone about this EVERY time I can!!!


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