Two More: Rough-legged Hawk and Short-eared Owls – Sullivan County Saturday

In pursuit of adding species that should already be on my Indiana Life list, Mike Clay and I headed to Sullivan and Greene Counties on Saturday. Our main objectives were Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk, and Short-eared Owl. And if time permitted a quick side trip to Turtle Creek for the Little Gull, if still present.

The day’s plan was to drive around searching for our objectives.  Which meant my least favorite type of birding – car birding.  But there isn’t any other way to find the target species. With the temperature in the high teens and a south wind around 12 MPH, the short bouts outside of the car were cold. Jumping back into the car was a relief, so I will stop whining about car birding. At least for now.

We started by checking for Northern Shrike and Rough-legged Hawk in NE Sullivan County. We hadn’t been at it long when a large dark bird put up the Canada Geese and Mallards. At first we thought it was a Rough-legged Hawk, but pretty quickly we figured out it was a young Bald Eagle.

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A good picture that Mike took as the eagle flew past us. Sullivan County 01/10/15

Within a couple of minutes we spotted a Rough-legged Hawk, one of six we would see on the day. I enjoy watching Red-tailed Hawks soar but it was nice to see something different.

After an hour and half we decided the shrike was a no-show and moved on.  We headed to the Dugger Unit where there were more Bald Eagles and a good variety of waterfowl on the only open water we saw.

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American Coot, Redhead, Lesser Scaup. Not sure what else is in the photo with the Canada Geese and Mallards. Dugger Unit, Sullivan County 01/10/15
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Maybe some Ring-necked Ducks in this one? Dugger Unit, Sullivan County 01/10/15

Now getting later in the day a decision had to be made, go to Turtle Creek or not? We decided to pass after checking IN-Bird and reading that the Little Gull hadn’t been seen.

So off to Goose Pond for a quick drive around.  We had numerous Northern Harriers and even a couple of Eastern Meadowlarks.  Also more Rough-legged Hawks.

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I have always been amazed how a bird as big as a Rough-legged Hawk can sit on a twig on the top of a tree. Goose Pond 01/10/15
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A closer shot showing the feathered legs. Goose Pond 01/10/15

Not seeing anything unusual we headed back to Sullivan County for Short-eared Owls.  After watching Northern Harriers fly the area for 15 minutes the first Short-eared Owl appeared at 5:31, fourteen minutes before sundown.

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I included this photo to show the stub face and broad wings at a distance. Short-eared Owl – Sullivan County 01/10/15
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One posed for us nicely. Anytime another owl would come close it would turn and “bark” at it, something I have never witnessed. Short-eared Owl – Sullivan County 01/10/15

It wasn’t long before other Short-eared Owls appeared.  Over the next 25 minutes we watched them fly, chase, and even “bark” at one another.  It was one of those things I had never encountered before but will always remember. With daylight gone and a 2 hour drive home, we called it a day, adding 2 more species to my Indiana Life list.

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Short-eared Owl silhouetted against the evening sky. The start of their day, the end of ours. Sullivan County 01/10/15




2 Replies to “Two More: Rough-legged Hawk and Short-eared Owls – Sullivan County Saturday”

  1. Car birding…..ugh, I hear ya! But in the Midwest in the colder months sometimes we have to bite the bullet and do more it than we like. Nice day out – congrats!

    1. Thanks. I was going to do as you suggested in last week’s comment about checking other areas, but we ran out of time to check out the Little Gull. Hopefully next time we will allow a little more time. Temps back near 40 this weekend, less car birding!


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