Saturday, October 24, 2009

Good Birding

As planned, Christina, Andy, and I traveled out to southwest St. Louis County this morning for the Audubon Society's storage facility sale.  On the drive down, Christina spotted a red-tailed hawk landing on the side of the highway (possibly attempting to catch some prey?), which was quite a thrill for me, since I do not get the opportunity to see raptors very often.

After spending some time looking through the beautiful old bird books and photographs on sale, I wandered out of the storage facility for a smoke.  As I was admiring the colorful fall foliage on the neighboring hillsides, I noticed another red-tailed hawk soaring through the air above me.  After he passed over to the other side of the hilltop, two additional red-tails appeared in the sky.  I watched all three of them glide about for quite some time, joyfully entranced.  Although I didn't end up purchasing any books, the trip was well worth it for the Red-tails alone.

 Red-tailed Hawk

Next on the itinerary was a trip to the Treehouse Wildlife Center in Alton, Illinois where a good deal of interesting birds of prey were being rehabilitated including a screeching Barn Owl, a silent Screech Owl (such a cute little guy!), a couple of Peregrine Falcons, some Bald Eagles, two Barred Owls, and a few Turkey Vultures, among many others.  They even had a bobcat, a coyote, and a couple of foxes on display.

 Barn Owl

Afterward, we stopped by a yummy Mexican place in Lafeyette Square for something to eat before birding in Tower Grove Park.  At the park, there were not too many birds around, since it was nearly twilight, but we were lucky enough to run into a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers near their home tree.

Red-headed Woodpecker

As the sun set, we were considering giving up the hunt and heading back home, when Christina noticed some song birds diving at a nearby tree.  She thought that they might have been behaving this way b/c the Great Horned Owls were around.  So we decided to attempt to locate them.

Once it became quite dark, we were close to abandoning our search, but first we wanted to try one last spot across the park.  As we were crossing an open area, Christina miraculously spotted something in a tree.  She began to run toward it, and sure enough, there was the female Great Horned Owl perched in a tree.  She watched us, as we watched her, and then she took off into the air.  What a brilliant and smooth flier she was!  We chased her over to a bare tree where she dropped a pellet of undigestible bones, then flew away again.   It was an incredible stroke of luck that Christina was able to spot her, after she had begun hunting, since they don't make any noise at this time. 

Great Horned Owl

Being able to witness this great bird in flight was truly the ideal finale to an enchanting day.

Om shanti and good birding to you all!