There was lots of excitement during my morning walk to nearby Columbus Park!
For me, the big excitement was the 50th addition to my Big Green Big Year (“Bigby”) birding list for 2009. It was a Hermit Thrush, which I saw in the woods just west of the lagoon. My Bigby list includes only birds I’ve seen or heard while walking from my home. Go here to read more about Bigby and see my updated list.
However, I wasn’t the only one who got excited this morning. I also watched two kinds of raptors mating in the Park. (The birds called “raptors” include hawks, eagles, falcons, and owls. Like all birds, they are the living descendants of the original raptors, the dinosaurs.) Today I saw a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks mating in the woods southwest of the golf course, and a pair of Kestrels mating in a tall tree behind the Refectory.
Sharp-shinned Hawks spend the winter in our neighborhood, then head north to nest. We find Kestrels year ’round in our neighborhood, although it’s been awhile since we saw them in the Park. (A few months ago we saw one in a McDonald’s drive through — it was there for the House Sparrows, not the burgers.)
For those who like details, here’s a more complete description of what I saw, which I posted on the Illinois birders list this afternoon:
I saw two pairs of raptors mating, or at least trying to mate (until I interrupted). The first was a pair of SHARP-SHINNED HAWKS, seen in the narrow band of woods just southwest of the golf course. I heard a high-pitched squawking noise and then found the pair on a tree branch, 40-50 feet away and about 15 feet off the ground. The male (I presume) was already on the female’s back. He fluttered off her, and then they sat side-by-side for about 15 seconds and watched me, giving me good looks at the tail (spread and closed), head size, overall shape, coloration, etc.
The second mating pair of raptors were KESTRELS. I first saw the male sitting alone on a bare upper branch of a tree near the Refectory. About 2 minutes later the female flew up and landed on a nearby bare branch. The male immediately flew to her, landed on her back, and they twisted so their hind ends met. After a few seconds they separated and sat silently on adjacent branches.