Earlier today I ran the Houtzdale Winter Raptor Survey in Clearfield County. This 110 mile route meanders through pockets of grasslands, stripmines, agricultural fields, and forests from Tyrone to Curwensville and then up to Clearfield. When we left State College to drive down there this morning it was sunny and calm. About halfway, in Blair County, we spotted an immature dark type Rough-legged Hawk hunting in the median strip and perching in the trees along the road. I quickly pulled over to try for a few photos as it glided past us. I was shooting into the sun, but the bird was close enough to make up for it.
Once we got down to the beginning of the survey route clouds had moved in and it was beginning to feel like snow. Sure enough within an hour or two it was lightly snowing and the roads were already covered with over an inch. The snow fell harder throughout the day, and the wind picked up a bit. Needless to say, raptors numbers were a little low despite the great habitat along the route. Almost all of the birds we did see were perched in trees and trying to stay warm. We had 5 adult Red-taileds, all perched in trees along the route, 1 adult Red-shouldered Hawk that we inadvertently flushed out of a tree while driving. We had only 1 immature Red-tailed Hawk and it was perching right along the road, hunting and diving into the snow ahead of us. We also had 2 immature Cooper’s Hawks – one flying over the road and perching in a tree briefly, and another perched in a tree above the road. At a bridge over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River we got out to stretch our legs and had a nice fly-by Great Blue Heron and two female Common Mergansers.