Monday, February 18, 2013

Rough-legged Hawks, Bedminster (Feb 16th)

Between being somewhat jaded (see: AZ trip) and bona fide tired, I did very little birding on this past weekend and went on one specific trip to look for Rough-legged Hawk in Bedminster.  I parked up at one end of Rattlesnake Bridge Rd adjacent to some grassy fields and there was a pretty good group of raptors almost immediately: American Kestrel, Northern Harriers, several Red-tailed Hawks and a distant Bald Eagle.  The conditions were pretty windy but I could sit in my car and get a good scan of two adjacent fields.

I saw one Rough-legged Hawk-ish bird hover briefly and skip down an adjacent hedge row.  While talking to some other birders that turned up it emerged that "the" Rough-legged in the area was a dark morph, and the RLHA-candidate that I saw was a light morph.  Odd.  Five minutes later a well-marked (likely immature) light morph Rough-legged came up over the tree line to prove my initial suspicions correct.  It gave decent albeit distant views and all the raptors were pointing away from the car since the wind was from the north.  Eventually a little patience was rewarded by the dark morph Rough-legged turning up over the same field.  There's been a good showing of inland Rough-legged this winter, not by any means unprecedented in NJ but probably also because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy killing a large chunk of the coastal rodent population.

I watched both birds to circuits for some time and left when a hunter turned up to walk the fields - they're owned by some hunting organization so assume this is legit, but wasn't aware that hunting was legal in NJ on Sundays.

A pass through the nearby Great Swamp NWR after this didn't net anything of note.

This little trip did make up for not having enough time to track down Rough-legged at the San Rafael Grasslands in AZ when I was there the previous week (and where Rough-legged are significantly rarer).

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