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Winter Raptor Survey – Snow Shoe, PA 2013

Alex Lamoreaux|

This light type immature Rough-legged Hawk was the last raptor we found on our WRS route today. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Winter Raptor Surveys are very popular in Pennsylvania, and I am always excited for this time of the year to finally get out and see what raptors and other winter birds are around the northern portion of Centre County, PA. Last year was the first year that I ran a WRS route in Centre County, and we tried to plan it out to cover as much of the strip-mined areas as we could. These vast, open areas with scattered small trees and shrubs create ideal winter raptor habitat. On last year’s survey, we were able to find 9 individual raptors plus a 1 Northern Shrike (3 Red-shouldered Hawks, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 Rough-legged Hawks, 1 Northern Harrier).

This year we had similar weather conditions, but we ran in to a closed bridge and it prevented us from completing the last third of our route which, sadly, would have been through some really nice habitat. Nonetheless, we did have a very productive survey and interestingly, we once again found 9 individual raptors and 1 Northern Shrike! Plus this was without going in to the final third of the route, which was bound to have a bunch more raptors (based on our observations from last year). This year we found 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 3 Rough-legged Hawks, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 1 American Kestrel, and 1 Cooper’s Hawk! Seven of those 9 raptors plus the shrike were all found within 1 mile of each other, on Rusnak Hill Rd! We also saw a herd of 57 elk!

The Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrel, and the Cooper’s Hawk did not offer a decent photo opportunity but the Red-shouldered Hawk, two of the Rough-legged Hawks, and the Northern Shrike sat still long enough for me to get some photos. The last raptor we saw for the route was a gorgeous light type immature Rough-legged Hawk that actually flew over closer to us and landed in a small tree right along the road!

This light type immature Rough-legged Hawk was the last raptor we found on our WRS route today. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

This light type immature Rough-legged Hawk was the last raptor we found on our WRS route today. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

This dark type adult Rough-legged Hawk was very active and never sat still for more than a few seconds, but I was able to get this one flight shot. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

This dark type adult Rough-legged Hawk was very active and never sat still for more than a few seconds, but I was able to get this one flight shot. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Our first raptor of the day was this adult Red-shouldered Hawk! (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Our first raptor of the day was this adult Red-shouldered Hawk! (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Northern Shrikes are always a pleasant surprise, and this adult type bird was quite a treat to see...even though it only stayed in view for a few seconds. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Northern Shrikes are always a pleasant surprise, and this adult type bird was quite a treat to see…even though it only stayed in view for a few seconds. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

About the Author

Alex Lamoreaux

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Alex Lamoreaux has been an avid birder and naturalist since he was a youngster, growing up exploring the farmland and forested ridges near Hershey, Pennsylvania. He attended Hershey High School and Penn State University. Alex has worked on wildlife research projects, ranging from Whimbrel along the coast of Virginia to Yellow-billed Cuckoos in the desert southwest. Alex loves to share his knowledge of nature, as well as help to bring the birding community together to share the enjoyment that spending time in nature has to offer. Alex has helped to organize and coordinate birding events in his home state of Pennsylvania and beyond. He has traveled extensively throughout North America, Central America, and South Africa and is currently pursuing nature tour guiding, as well as continuing to refine his passion for wildlife photography.Contact Info for Alex Lamoreaux: aslamoreaux@gmail.com (717) 943-7086