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Northern Harrier Migrant

Posted on Sep 25, 2015

Can you spot the bird in this photo? Good luck! It is a migrant from the Boothe Park Hawk Watch, and it is in the upper right third of the picture. High in the sky in a suburban park is also not where you would normally imagine spotting one. It is a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) on the way south for the winter, heading down the Housatonic River corridor to find Long Island Sound and the Atlantic coast. Binoculars help to identify it, but even here you can see the long wings, long tail and soaring, light flight it takes at low levels over fields.

Northern Harrier Boothe Park tower-0079

Maybe it will use Stratford Point or other coastal grasslands and marshes to rest, feed and ready itself for more of its journey. If you are one of our friends in Chautuauqa County please remember that we at the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History have assisted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for two seasons of wintering raptor surveys, and we will need your continuing help for a third in 2015-2016. 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. Western New York’s NYSDEC Region 9 is a large geographical area and we at RTPI volunteer our time and knowledge to assist NYSDEC in covering this vast landscape.

We need assistance from citizen scientists like you in discovering, tracking and recording these birds across Chautauqua County, so come December we hope you will start eBirding them with as many details as possible. We will have more information in a couple of months. This bird will not be among our winter neighbors, but its relatives will, and counting these birds both now in migration and in winter helps to aid and protect the species throughout the year.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator