Day of the Raptors, European style

I had a wonderful time being back home for a bit, and it was great to see family, friends, and all the critters in Estabrook Park again, but now I’m back in South Holland, and it sure was a beautiful morning to visit the countryside. Even though we’re back to standard time, the sun still doesn’t come up till 8am, but the birds just don’t seem to notice, and they put on one heck of a show this morning. There were at least three redwings sampling the berry buffet along the bike path, and this is the one who let me take a picture.


Meanwhile, down by the water, this diminutive moorhen gave us a good look at its size-12 feet.


The grey herons were busy foraging this morning, and I counted 20 individuals.


As I was about the cross back under the train tracks, I spotted this Eurasian kestrel take a perch on the wires overhead, and I was surprised by how close it let me approach.


A train speeding our way, on the other hand, was an entirely different matter.


I hadn’t even walked all the way back to my bicycle before another raptor approached, and this time it was an osprey! After that amazing visit in Estabrook last fall, I’d recognize that face paint anywhere. I read now that “the osprey is the second most widely distributed raptor species, after the peregrine falcon,” whom we have also seen both at home and abroad.


The osprey today caused quite a ruckus, however, and here it is being chased by five crows and two gulls! I read further that “the osprey is piscivorous,” and “fish” make “up 99% of its diet,” but maybe the other birds can’t tell the difference.


After all that excitement, I finally did cross under the train tracks, and as soon as I parked my bicycle on the other side, yet another raptor was beset by corvids, crows and magpies this time. This one was a sparrowhawk, and here it is catching its breath in a moment of piece. Since “the Eurasian sparrowhawk is a major predator of smaller woodland birds“, perhaps they are better suited to handle the harassment, or the other birds know better to keep a greater distance.


Once I had that picture, I finally headed into the small bit of woods and was immediately greeted by this female chaffinch foraging beside the path.


Back out of the woods, I spotted this pair of ducks, and they might be female greater scaups, but I’m not quite sure because….


They look so much like female tufted ducks, which I found farther along the canal. Here’s a handsome male sporting his tuft. I read that distinguishing between the various members of the Aythya genus can be tricky. Best of all “hybrid Aythyas are common.” Sheesh!


Anyway, back up in the air, I was pleasantly surprised to find a pair of storks that haven’t flown south yet.


I did see a few buzzards, too, including a pair soaring together, and even got a picture of one from afar, but it is too blurry to include. Nevertheless, that makes today a 4-raptor day, which beats my previous record of 3 raptors in one morning in Estabrook Park. Woo hoo!

Published by Andrew Dressel

Theoretical and Applied Bicycle Mechanic, and now, apparently, Amateur Naturalist. In any case, my day job is teaching mechanics at UWM.

4 thoughts on “Day of the Raptors, European style

  1. Hi Andy, Were you just checking to see who of us actually reads your lovely posts? Just didn’t look like this moorhen is 12 feet!!
    “Meanwhile, down by the water, this diminutive moorhen gave us a good look at its size-12 feet.”

    Cold and dreary here today, but it’s Saturday, so all is good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Good one Lois,

      I had intended for you to parse the words to mean that the moorhen has feet that are size 12, but I can definitely see your parsing as well, now that you point it out.



    1. Hi Drew,

      Just to be clear, in case anyone else reads this, I didn’t get a picture of a buzzard yesterday, but I can see why my writing might have tripped you up. I describe seeing a pair of soaring buzzards immediately below the picture of a pair of soaring storks. There’s even a picture of an osprey from close to head on, and you can see the separation it its wingtip feathers, too.

      Now, on to your excellent question. Those feathers at the wingtips are called “primaries”, and Dr Vance Tucker, now professor emeritus at Duke University, show that the gaps, both vertical and horizontal, between the primary feathers of birds that soar over land “reduce induced drag in the sense that the separated tip feathers act as winglets and increase the span factor of the wings.”

      You can read all about it here.


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