A Snowstorm Rough-legged Hawk

On the long, stormy trek from Rochester Mills, Pennsylvania back to Newark, Delaware yesterday I made a quick stop near State College to look for a hit-or-miss Rough-legged Hawk along Wagner Rd. A severe winter storm was lingering over the area at the time did not provide the best viewing or driving conditions.

The fields and hedgerows along Wagner Rd. and this portion of Rt. 322 provide requisite habitat for wintering Rough-legged Hawks. This particular Rough-legged Hawk has an extensive area to hunt, so I did not have high hopes of seeing the bird especially with the limited visibility. I pulled onto Wagner Rd. and immediately started scanning the fields east of the road to find a Rough-legged Hawk hovering above an old hay field. The bird flew to an old fence post to perch allowing for this alluring photograph:

Rough-legged Hawk along Wagner Rd. near State College, PA on 26 December 2012. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

In the winter, Rough-legged Hawks are littered across most of the ABA Area, but highly concentrated in the Midwest and interior Northwest. Numerous Rough-legged Hawks can be found throughout Pennsylvania each winter and Nate and I have had the chance to see spectacular individuals on several occasions, a beautiful light morph in Lycoming County and a gorgeous dark morph in Centre County.

The frequency of checklists submitted containing Rough-legged Hawk observations has increased exponentially since the beginning of October.

Frequency of Checklists reported containing Rough-legged Hawks for October to December 2012. Credit: eBird.

The photo was taken with the Phone Skope Camera app that can be found in the Google Play Store. Be sure to check out Phone Skope on their website, Facebook, and Twitter!

Evening Grosbeak Irruption Update

Evening Grosbeak in Howard, Pennsylvania on October 20, 2012. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Evening Grosbeaks have been showing up throughout the northeast for over a month now and are slowly, but surely making their way south. The furthest south reports are coming from Pennsylvania that Alex Lamoreaux and Anna Fasoli from Nemesis Bird did a fine job of photographing. I did a search on Birding News for Evening Grosbeak and it resulted in 442 results for the entire ABA Area. Scanning over the posts, most sightings are coming from feeders in the southern boundary of the irruption.

Evening Grosbeak and Pine Siskin in Howard, Pennsylvania on October 20, 2012. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Evening Grosbeak sightings for this fall from eBird:

Here is the prediction for Evening Grosbeaks in Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast:

This spectacular grosbeak is ABA’s Bird of the Year in 2012. We can expect some at feeders in central Ontario and probably elsewhere in the Northeast because coniferous and hardwood tree seed supplies are low. Highest breeding densities are found in areas with spruce budworm outbreaks. The larvae are eaten by adults and fed to young. Current populations are much lower than several decades ago when budworm outbreaks were much larger and more widespread.

Keep an eye on your feeders over the next few weeks for the ABA’s Bird of the Year, I know Rob Mortensen at Birding Is Fun is! Make sure to check out the ABA Bird of Year Multimedia Art Contest and submit your entries by October 31st.

Make sure to submit all of your sightings to eBird!