Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Keep Your Distance From Wildlife
December 19, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     The winter finch invasion continues as more and more backyard birders are witnessing Siskins and Redpolls at their finch feeders and Evening Grosbeaks at their sunflower feeders.

     Those with a tray or platform feeder are having the best luck. Katrina, who works part time at the store, sent me a text message last Monday: “Picked up a tray for my tube feeder yesterday and it got the Evening Grosbeak stamp of approval.” The text was accompanied by a photo of two male Evening Grosbeaks on the feeder’s new tray!

© Katrina Fenton

     Many other Evening Grosbeak are being reported from all over the county including Haverhill, Ipswich, Rowley and Rockport. Pine Grosbeaks are inching their way closer to Massachusetts as they move south through southern New Hampshire. Look for them on crabapple trees, bittersweet and other berry bushes.

     Crossbills are also being seen in Salisbury, Plum Island and Cape Ann. They are feeding on pines, prying open the cones with their adaptive bills. These birds could also appear at area feeders as the winter wears on.

     A few Snowy Owls have been seen on Salisbury and Plum Island. As usual, they are attracting a lot of attention from birders, photographers, and those wildlife watchers that want to see a snowy owl.

     Ranger Poole of the Parker River Refuge staff posted concerns on Facebook, reminding everyone that approaching any wildlife too close is considered disturbance of wildlife and is a violation of the law. Though most observers are respectful, he urges everyone to view Snowy Owls, and all wildlife, from a distance so as not to disturb them.

     Steve Bennett of Portsmouth was able to enjoy some drama between a Peregrine Falcon and a Snowy Owl from a safe distance using his spotting scope:

     “I was in Hampton this morning so I decided to cruise by the harbor and see if the Snowy Owl reported by Zeke was still around. At noon it was still sitting on the same large rock on the edge of the marsh. Through the scope, I was able to determine that this is the same Snowy Owl that we have been seeing regularly in the marsh over the past few weeks.

     “Not too far away I spotted a large Peregrine perched on a short post. It seemed to me that the two were aware of each other. The Peregrine took flight in the opposite direction of the Snowy, then it suddenly arched steeply skyward, rolled over and went into an amazingly high-speed stoop, aimed right at the Snowy, missing it by inches.

     “Then the Peregrine went a few hundred feet straight up, flipped around on a dime and came straight back down, again, with amazing speed, and dive-bombed the Snowy. Just before crashing into the large boulder and the Snowy, with amazing agility, it banked hard left and shot out over the marsh and continued out of sight.

     “Out of nowhere, a blinding streak appeared. It was the Peregrine heading straight for the Snowy at full tilt, only about 10-feet over the marsh. It passed ridiculously close to the Snowy, forcing the owl to jump about 5-feet into the air.

     “This went on for several minutes, with the Peregrine coming in at very high-speeds from several different angles. I counted 8 passes at the Snowy. Eventually the Peregrine just continued across the marsh and the Snowy went back to sleep.

     “I’ve seen a lot of Peregrines but this was the best and longest exhibit of truly amazing speed & agility that I’ve ever had the pleasure & excitement to watch. This is why I love raptors.”

     I doubt that such action would have occurred, and witnessed by Steve through his scope, if the Snowy Owl had been surrounded by humans! Please let’s give these arctic visitors, and all wildlife, some space!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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