"A Sand County Almanac"

"THERE ARE SOME WHO CAN LIVE WITHOUT WILD THINGS AND SOME WHO CANNOT."
"FOR US IN THE MINORITY THE OPPORTUNITY TO SEE GEESE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TELEVISION.".....Aldo Leopold




"LOOK DEEP INTO NATURE, AND THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING BETTER".....Albert Einstein


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Raptor Hot Spot in Frederick County, MD


Stull Road is a small country byway just north of Frederick off of Route 15 between Mountaindale Road and Powell Road.  Normally it is little traveled because there are only five houses along its length.  What makes it unique is the fact that it borders a fallow farm field of 114 acres which has not been planted in some time.  The field is divided by overgrown fence rows, made up of both small and large trees, which provide ideal perches for raptors seeking prey.  Additionally, a row of tall wooden utility poles runs across the center of the property.
A little over a month ago someone mentioned spotting harriers, red-tail hawks and mentioned that it was a likely spot for rough legged hawks as well: http://www.mdbirding.com/
I soon began visiting the location and usually found the field alive with raptors.  Northern harriers have long eluded my camera and I was anxious to obtain a photograph of this species…
 
These birds often fly low just above the weeds as they cross open areas searching for prey...
 

When a vole or mouse is spotted they can flair their wings and tail and seem to stop in midair before dropping onto their unsuspecting victim...






 
After devouring their meal they resume the hunt... 

 
Over the month that I have been visiting the Stull Road location I have seen as many as six harriers in the air at the same time, although two is the most that I have been able to photograph together...
 
 
 
 



I have traveled long distances in the hopes of finding harriers to photograph.  Never did I imagine that such a bounty would be present so near to home...




When speaking with birders the species that is always asked about is the rough-legged hawk.  This native of the frozen tundra sometimes travels south in the winter, much to the delight of birders and photographers...



These large hawks have the ability to hover in one spot while seeking prey, much like the kestrel and other falcons...

 
This is another species that I have only glimpsed in the past.  To find a cooperative subject was almost too much to hope for...
 






One tip I would share with bird photographers is to remember that many birds are frightened by humans approaching too closely.  All of the photos shown here were taken from my vehicle, which is a technique that I have found does not alarm most wildlife.  When a bird is overhead, don't forget to put your sunroof to good use...


 
I personally observed at least four rough-legged hawks at this location, and there may be more.  Is there any wonder why I titled this post "raptor hot spot"?


Red-tailed hawks seem to be everywhere, sharing the same field with the raptors already mentioned.  In the next photo two red-tailed hawks can be seen together...



Frequent return visits allows one the opportunity find a bird in better camera range...




 
During several visits there were wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour.  High winds make it possible for large raptors such as the rough legged hawk in the first photo, and the red-tailed hawk in the second, to soar effortlessly over the fields... 

 
 
 Some, such as this kestrel, must hold on for dear life to avoid being blown away...




Even though I consider this the best spot I have ever encountered for photographing raptors, there is still plenty of time, between opportunities, to observe and photograph other species such as this American goldfinch...

 
 Eastern blue bird...

 
 
 Northern mockingbird...


 
 House finch...
 


 Northern ravens... 



I want to dedicate this post to my good friend Tom Geasey, who has lived his whole life only a short distance from Stull Road.  Tom has been an inspiration to me as a naturalist, outdoors man and most importantly, an ethical human being.
 
Tom, may there always be sunshine, wildlife and good fishing wherever you are.



3 comments:

  1. Great post!! I have lived just a few miles away from Stull rd. my entire life and I have always been so proud of the wildlife in the immediate area. This makes me really happy. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kenneth. Please share a link to the blog with you friends and neighbors who may be interested. I would be interested in other places up your way to find wildlife to photograph. Any place where animals or birds are seen on a regular basis.
      Thanks,
      Steve

      Delete
  2. Excellent, Thank you for sharing the pictures off our road ! Yes we see them alot .

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