Sunday, January 31, 2010

urban hawk banding

Today I got the chance to meet up with Loren, one of the coordinators of the Raptor banding workshop I did in Stevens Point. He's also licensed to trap and band raptors and luckily lives here in town, so we thought we'd try trapping hawks today and see what we could get. It's been several months since I've gotten to handle birds, so maybe I had my expectations set a little high, but I was not disappointed!

We started out the morning with a Rough-legged Hawk spotted just down the road from our starting point. Not even 5 minutes after baiting the Roughie with deer mice, he was on the trap. Poor guy was clearly hungry, like many birds are in winter. I must admit, I'm more of a songbird birder than a raptor watcher. So, I'm still in the process of learning my local birds of prey! I don't believe I've ever gotten such a good glimpse of a Rough-legged Hawk before, and now he was here in my hand. He was quite stunning, a little bit smaller than a Red-tailed hawk, but with longer wings and a dark brown front. Rough-leggeds are only in Wisconsin for the winter, so they are a little bit more of a rarity compared to Red-tails, which are absolutely everywhere.

Close-up with a Rough-legged Hawk

Loren with our first catch of the day

Moments after banding our first bird, we were out setting traps after another Rough-legged and an adult Red-tailed hawk perching in the same tree. Unfortunately they were too far out. We had to walk the traps out to get closer to the birds and may have raised their suspicions. They weren't falling for it. Meanwhile, we caught sightings of a skunk walking around in the daylight and three flocks of Tundra Swans!

Our next catch was an immature Red-tailed Hawk, another easy catch that flew directly for our trap. We banded him right outside the Lussier Family Heritage Center near a popular walking trail, raising a few strange looks from passersby.

After releasing the young Red-tail, he stuck around for awhile perched atop the building before flying away.

After catching two hawks, we took a break for lunch. Alas we should have looked around more for hawks before sitting down! This red-tailed hawk caught it's own lunch just outside the window while we were grabbing sandwiches.

After catching an immature Red-tail, I suppose the goal now was to get an adult. We tried and failed to catch the red-tail pictured below. He went after the trap, but broke loose! Here in the picture, you can see how the mice are safely contained in the trap. The microfilaments attached to the top of the Bal-chatri Trap work as tiny nooses that catch on the raptor's feet.

Just as we were about to wrap up the day, we got a good spot on two Red-tails just down the road again from where we got our Rough-legged. We succeeded in getting one of the pair! Loren though it may be the male, judging by its smallish size, and the other may hawk have been its mate. Our adult red-tail still weighed in over 1100 grams. Pretty big, considering most of the birds I'm used to banding weigh around 10 grams!

So end of the day, we got 3 hawks. And I got to band all of them.. well with a little help of course.

Those sure are some "rough" legs.. I guess? A Rough-legged Hawk with some feathery feet!