[birding] Grassland raptors in northern Polk County -- Ferruginous and possible Swainson's?

Joel Geier joel.geier at peak.org
Fri Sep 7 14:57:37 PDT 2018

Sorry for the late report as I was involved with more pressing issues
for most of the day ....

Around 9 AM this morning a stubble field along Ballston Rd. west of the
small town of Ballston (in northern Polk county, a few miles SE of the
Sheridan prison complex) had a concentration of raptors that were
feeding on the ground. Along with the usual ravens, kestrels, and
Red-tailed Hawks, a couple of unusual raptors caught my eye.

One appeared to be a juvenile dark-morph FERRUGINOUS HAWK, based on
overall size & shape, very long cere (bill), and extensive feathering on
the legs.

The second one was really puzzling: Slim and drab dark overall, more
like charcoal-gray than black, showing very little pattern that I could
distinguish with cruddy optics at 80-100 m. The cere was similar in size
to a Red-tailed Hawk. It was shy and when I stopped along the road to
look; it flew off, with surprisingly long, pointed wing and shallow wing
beats.I could see indistinct light & dark barring on the tail.

I drove on for another mile, then started wondering about it so I came
back and found it on the other side of the road. It once again picked up
and flew away, with the same long-winged appearance and odd style of

Based mainly on shape and general impression I was leaning toward
dark-morph SWAINSON'S HAWK, but I couldn't see the underside of the
wings or any other diagnostic field marks. Also, I got to thinking: What
are the odds of seeing both of these species in western Oregon on the
same day, practically side by side?

Anyway this seems to be a good field for migrant raptors right now, so
may be worth checking as long as the food supply holds up.

As for Sheridan, the Fishing Pond (Southside) Park is still closed for
"pond maintenance" which has been going on for two weeks now.

Good birding,

Joel Geier
Camp Adair area north of Corvallis

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