Raptors and owls in the Lake Champlain Region!

A Return Trip

After our success along the Adirondack Coast a couple weeks ago, Wren and I used the recent long weekend to poke around the lake yet again. It was a fantastically sunny – albeit windy - day. As we often do, we started in Westport, which has been quiet the past few weeks. It stayed true to form with a collection of Mallards and American Black Ducks and a flock of Bufflehead at the boat launch. After checking the overlook at Hoisington Brook and finding similar species and the flock of gulls offshore, we headed south toward Bulwaga Bay and Crown Point – where we had spotted most of the goodies the last time we were out. On the way we took a quick turn down Dudley Road where I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk, but we pushed on down the road to get to the Port Henry boat launch.

Common Goldeneye

The flock of ducks which had been hanging out along the edge of the ice bobbed in the distance on the Vermont side of the lake, and there were only a few scattered ducks nearby, as well as a small group of gulls. After checking the water, we continued on.

Raptors on Crown Point

Our luck turned when we reached Crown Point where the raptor show which has been on stage for weeks continued. I parked along the side of Trimble Road for a while, counting at least 3 Rough-legged Hawks and 3 Red-tailed Hawks as well as a Northern Harrier which picked at its latest kill in the field. I was hoping to get some more photos of the birds and stood for a while waiting for them to approach close enough in good light. They weren’t as cooperative as they had been on my previous trip, but they did afford me a couple shots. The large flock of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks which I had seen on my earlier trip was also less cooperative than it had been before – in that is was completely gone - save 2 Snow Buntings which dodged a diving Red-tailed Hawk as I looped back towards the Champlain Bridge on Lake Street. An Eastern Bluebird rounded out my list as I drove to Crown Point State Historic Site.

Northern Harrier

My goals at the historic site were twofold: look for any ducks along the shore and give Wren a short walk. We accomplished both tasks, although Wren would have liked it if I had stayed out longer than I did in the howling wind which blasted us. Even from Crown Point the main flock of ducks along the Vermont shoreline was distant, misshapen by atmospheric factors and rolling waves, so I gave them a cursory glance and focused on the nearby birds which sat under the gaze of an adult Bald Eagle.Bald Eagle

There were lots of Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, and Greater Scaup with a few other birds thrown into the mix. Just a day or two earlier one of the Barrow’s Goldeneye I had found a couple weeks ago was seen from Port Henry, so it (and likely the second Barrow’s) are still out there, but I decided not to take the time and eyestrain to sift through the distorted ducks which would not have presented me a chance to take photos at such a great distance. Chimney Point Historic Site on the Vermont side of the bridge wasn’t much better so I chose to skip the ducks and try for more raptors in the fields, cutting a short loop through Vermont.

Searching for Short-eared Owls

I had similar fare in Vermont as I had in Crown Point, but I didn’t have any better luck on photos. So as the sun began to move into the western sky, I drove north to the Magic Triangle where I was looking for more raptors and most specifically, Short-eared Owls. After my raptor success in Crown Point and in Vermont I was surprised by the lack of raptors in the Magic Triangle. I busied myself with songbirds like White-breasted Nuthatch, American Tree Sparrow, and Black-capped Chickadee, but someone must have told the hawks that the hunting was better in Crown Point. So I swung a short loop to look at the ducks in Essex Harbor, finding some of the same species I had already.

Rough-legged Hawk - Larry

But as evening began to fall I was back in the Triangle, looking from the viewpoint offered by Clark Road and hoping that a Short-eared Owl might still be lingering in the area. I scanned for several minutes, watching the light grow purple and blue on the mountains as the pale sky began to blush with the night. I was beginning to think about heading home when a Short-eared Owl popped over a low ridge, coming straight towards me! I must have surprised it as it wheeled and veered from its path landing in the field and watching me with its yellow eyes. It soon lifted off, floating out into the gloom, and I started for home on a high note.

Winter has landed in the Lake Champlain Region and the birding is great. Plan your trip with our dining and lodging pages. 

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