Date: 11/17/17 5:50 am From: <badgerboy...> Subject: Re: Pond mountain RL Hawk and Short-eared Owl
First many thanks to Clifton Avery and the nongame arm of the NC WRC for leading this series of bird walks at Pond Mountain. Its an incredible place and not just for birding, located just across the valley from Mount Rogers, the Grayson highlands and Whitetop Mountain across the VA border.
The special things about the Rough-legged Hawks Wednesday were 1. that there were two hawks seen together, which apparently is unprecedented in the high country, and 2. that one was a dark morph, which also is apparently the first around here. I can't emphasize enough how awesome and close, and longterm views we had of these two birds interacting with each other at close range, in very good lighting, doing their characteristic "vertical hover" maneuver.
Also the Short-eared Owl sighting was very unexpected and therefore exciting, coming in this very remote and rarely birded area. There is only one report of this species in the northern mountains of NC before, and that was about 40 years ago and had no firm date. Could this bird and maybe others be overwintering here at Pond Mtn? It boggles the imagination.
If anyone goes up to find these birds, the hawks were hanging around mostly near the mountaintop by the old hangar/equipment shed, though they moved around all over the low growth areas, and the owl was flushed about a quarter mile before that just left of the main road near a plowed/short grass area. Just a note of caution--this is hunting season and there are usually active hunters there.