Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Wing

Have you ever heard of a canoe hike? A what, you ask? In a canoe hike, you canoe or kayak for a while, on the Ohio River in this instance, then pull ashore to go hiking, specifically for fossils.
In August, the Army Corps of Engineers closes all gates on the dam, and the water is lower than it gets any other time of the year. I often wonder how these trees at the river's edge survive at all, since the soil washes away, leaving only roots.
My job on Saturday morning, was to take pictures of the boaters. However, I got more involved with photos of the birds flying overhead! Fancy that! Our Osprey pair fledged several young this year, although I don't know how many. One of them flew over as I awaited the canoes and kayaks.
Double Crested Cormorants are common residents on the river. In the water all you see are their snake-like heads. Come fall migration, we will count 500-700 of them at a time sitting on the wall of McAlpine Dam.
This one flapped a while on the water as the canoe neared, then took off. They have to get a running start to actually lift off the water. Canada Geese are gathering in flocks to feed at the river, and they take off with their usual chatter.
My favorite soaring birds, however, are the vultures. They sit on the bare rocks during the morning, cleaning up any fish washed ashore. By 11:30, the sun has warmed the rocks enough to create thermals, and all the vultures take off at one time. When I enlarged this Vulture photo, I found another bird flying above it. Click to enlarge it. I feel pretty certain from the silhouette, that this is one of our Peregrine Falcons. What a lucky shot! You can't shoot photos and count at the same time, but there must have been at least 75 birds lifting off for the day.
The swoop and soar, and manage to not run into each other as they ascend the thermal.
I confidently told another volunteer at the Falls that these were all Black Vultures, since we saw black heads and white at the wing tips. I wondered where the Turkey Vultures were. On closer examination, though, I think some of them were juvenile Turkey Vultures. They also have black heads, but their tails are longer. Still no adults though...
When I played with the lighting in Photoshop, I also saw silver along the trailing wing edges. So I could be wrong about any individual vulture here. This Saturday, September 4, is International Vulture Awareness Day. Last year I made a special post for Vulture Day, but this may be it for this year. Raptor Rehab will be taking some Turkey Vultures to the Falls for Vulture Day, so I will participating in a new way this year! A young Red Tailed Hawk has taken up residence at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, and soared over the mansion this morning, searching the fields for breakfast.
His tail has not developed the red coloring characteristic of the adult yet.

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