Northern Hawk owl sighted

Published on Fri, Feb 16, 2001
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Northern Hawk owl sighted

by Eileen Tuomaala

The Northern Hawk owl, seldom seen on the coast here and spotted in the Blaine area, was the rarest bird reported in the international Audubon Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the White Rock and Surrey Naturalists’ Society December 30.

Cries of derision met the announcement at the post count, but count compiler Hue MacKenzie decided to accept the rare bird report turned in by Vancouver’s Malcolm Hayes.

“I’m quite satisfied he knows what he’s talking about,” MacKenzie said, after telephoning him later.

The diurnal owl was found in the vicinity of McGee and Stein roads. When it does come down from the northern forests, it inhabits shrubby and cultivated fields, perching on power poles and tree tops, inclining its body forward and jerking its long, rounded tail.

Smaller than a crow, it has barred underparts and broad, black sideburns framing its face and it flies low before rising abruptly to its perch.

This isn’t the first time Blaine has captured the rarest bird honor. In 1981 it was Ruddy Turnstone, a shorebird that winters south of San Francisco Ba, and the next year saw an osprey tied for first.

In 1983 the most spectacular bird reported was a Spectacled Eider but it was not accepted because it dived before its identity could be properly confirmed. Another year birders were delighted to see a red-breasted Sapsucker in Lincoln Park.

The U.S. part of the count is the bottom of a circle 15 miles in diameter, which includes Blaine, Drayton Harbor and Lincoln Park.

Robert Worona, team leader for the south-of-the-border area, also reported a Black Turnstone, Pacific Loon, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Western Gull and two Hermit Thrushes among the 79 species and 7,247 individuals counted here.

Overall there were 128 species and the rarest birds on the Canadian side were a Ruddy Trunstone, Lapland Longspur and Orange-Crowned Warbler.

Four Bellingham birders – Tina Mirabile, Paul Cookson and Andrew and Debbie Craig – participated in the count, thanks to Worona’s e-mail inquiries.

“We’ve tried on many occasions to get Americans but it didn’t catch,” MacKenzie said, and hopes in future more U.S. citizens will volunteer. The Blaine area has been covered since 1976.

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