11-06-10 – Vassar Farm Hike

On Saturday, I got up early and headed to Vassar Farm for the morning and part of the afternoon.  I was hoping to get to Thompson Pond today as well, but a migraine that started yesterday afternoon has stayed with me the remainder of the weekend.  Better luck next weekend I guess.

First of all, I did not reach 100 bird species photographed this weekend.  That doesn’t mean all was lost though.  It turned out to be a great day for soaring hawks, including the Red-Tailed Hawk photograph above.

As I pulled up to Vassar Farm, I saw a small hawk perched in a tree.  Thankfully, he stuck around long enough for me to park, get my camera ready and snap a few photos.  I couldn’t make out what it was until I reviewed the pictures at home, which I can now confirm as a Cooper’s Hawk.  After the sighting, I continued to the front pond to see what was hanging around that area.

At the pond, I recorded about 13 Mallards, 2 Canada Geese and 1 Belted Kingfisher.  The Cooper’s Hawk continued to fly around the area until the sun finally rose up over the tree line behind me.  At that exact moment, a Red-Tailed Hawk flew through, illuminated by the morning sun.  I was able to snap several photos of this spectacle, and was easily the highlight of my day.

Since we’ve had so much rain, I had to jump across water crossing over the trail to get into the woods to look for other perched hawks and woodpeckers.  Sightings there included 2 Northern Cardinals, a Downy Woodpecker, a Northern Flicker, and a White-Breasted Nuthatch.  After about a half an hour there, I returned to the parking lot to meet up with members of the Waterman Bird Club.

Right outside of the community gardens was a large group of foraging birds including several House Sparrows and House Finches, one or two White-Crowned Sparrow, and one or two Song Sparrows.  Other birds in the area included a few Blue Jays, some Mockingbirds, a couple Eastern Bluebirds, and some European Starlings.

As the day progressed, we encountered Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-Capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, more Blue Jays and a few White-Throated Sparrows.  Once we got to the field station, the hawks and vultures began to show themselves and glide through the sky.  Red-Tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and a lone Cooper’s Hawk were our high fliers.

While we were making our way back to the parking lot, we saw a few flocks of Robins and Blackbirds, with another Red-Tailed Hawk and a few more Turkey Vultures soaring overhead.  One Red-Tailed Hawk in particular (the one in the photograph) flew towards us, almost as if to check us out.  After that, we continued to the parking lot and everyone parted ways.

It didn’t end for me there though.  Someone in the parking lot informed me of a “large black bird with an ugly red head perched in a tree by the pond”.  Knowing it was a Turkey Vulture, I was curious to observe him perched.  Sure enough, a lone Turkey Vulture sat in a branch relatively close to the trail by the front ponds.  I snapped a few photos and ended my day with that.

Full sighting list below:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Cooper’s Hawk
  5. Red-Tailed Hawk
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Belted Kingfisher
  8. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  9. Downy Woodpecker
  10. Northern Flicker
  11. Blue Jay
  12. American Crow
  13. Black-Capped Chickadee
  14. Tufted Titmouse
  15. White-Breasted Nuthatch
  16. Carolina Wren
  17. Eastern Bluebird
  18. American Robin
  19. Northern Mockingbird
  20. European Starling
  21. Song Sparrow
  22. White-Throated Sparrow
  23. White-Crowned Sparrow
  24. Dark-Eyed Junco
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. Red-Winged Blackbird
  27. Purple Finch
  28. House Finch
  29. American Goldfinch
  30. House Sparrow
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