Finding things on the snow!
While coming home from work yesterday, I accidentally flushed a Red-tailed Hawk doing something behind the house. You know that look on a child’s face that something just happened and there is no way that they are going to tell you? Well, this was the same feeling I had with this Red-tailed Hawk who took off carrying something in its talons. I would have loved to follow it for a good photo opportunity but I needed to get the cats fed and get ready for the Kenn Kaufman talk. I did hiked through the deep snow for CSI – TOM to investigate those fallen remnants from under its perch (before I rudely interrupted is dinner). As everyone would have anticipated …. this hawk was feeding on a small mammal species and some plucked fur was blowing around the top of the snow (future mouse bedding). It is CSI – TOM’s SWAG (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) that this prey was probably a Red Squirrel that was captured (due to prey size when it flew away and by what the fur looked like). This must be the same Red-tailed Hawk who has been visiting the feeders on a regular basis this winter because this one bird has mastered the ability of catching those Red Squirrels. I think the Red-tailed Hawk needs some help because there are still many of those little guys running around the yard.
Other good news is that the Stoneflies are out running around on top of the snow this morning! The photo above shows an adult male/female going their separate ways (don’t ask what they were just doing before I took this photo). The adults are rarely found far from water because the nymph stage is spent underwater. These adult hatches are very important food for resident birds because you can have hundreds of these medium-sized, soft-bodied bugs in one location at one time. The birds will start gorging on them if one of these hatches is found. My first memorable encounter with Stoneflies was around 2001 when I was out Cross Country Skiing at another Nature Center that I worked at. I remember stopping and backing up for seeing all these black spots in such freshly laid snow. It was such an eye opener to me because I never would have expected to find all these insects gathered together like this on the snow (while it was snowing)! So, please take the time to look closely at the snow because you never know what you might be overlooking.
This stonefly species was about 1 cm in length.
Doing my slide program for the Allegany County Bird Club Friday evening! Will try to get online blogging and on flickr as soon as I can!! This is starting to become a very busy time of the year for me!