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Gray Ghost & Winter Raptors

Posted on Dec 4, 2016

We are now in the beginning of meteorological winter and nearing the start of astronomical winter. Our birds, as usual, are already prepared for the season however we wish to define it, having migrated, irrupted, or dispersed to wintering grounds throughout the region, continent, or perhaps even out of our hemisphere. Those that remain with us have evolved to cope with the freezing conditions and heavy snowfall. One such species is the Northern Harrier, and last week I photographed this adult male “gray ghost” while it was hunting.



Look at that gaze – magnificent! The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History has assisted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for three seasons of wintering raptor surveys in Chautauqua County. The primary focus of these surveys is to determine where Short-eared Owls (Asio flammeus), ‘endangered’ in New York, and Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus), ‘threatened’ in New York, are spending the winter season to roost and feed. This season we will be holding a training session at RTPI in early January for volunteers who wish to help us. Until then please keep an eye out for these species while birding, and if you spot them, please enter them into eBird with as many details as possible including precise location, date, time, weather, number of individuals, sex, age, behavior (e.g. hunting, roosting, preening) and general condition of the bird(s). Feel free to email either RTPI Conservation Technician Elyse Henshaw (ehenshaw AT rtpi.org) or me, Conservation & Outreach Coordinator Scott Kruitbosch (skruitbosch AT rtpi.org), with any questions. More information will be coming soon, and thank you!

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator