Jo Hays Vista: Snow Buntings and Golden Eagles

North winds were predicted for today at Jo Hays Vista, so Drew and I were excited to get up there and hopefully see some raptor migration, since the past month has been poor wind and weather conditions to encourage raptors to fly along Tussey Ridge. Drew and I got to JHV at 10:00am and things looked good. The winds were out of the north, and they were strong. Red-tailed Hawks were coming past every few minutes. The first bit of excitement of the day was at 10:41 when a 2nd year Bald Eagle was spotted soaring out over the valley. Five minutes later, a juvenile Golden Eagle flew along the ridge, heading south! Red-tails continued for the next couple hours, but each hour saw fewer and fewer migrants. We ended up with 3 Bald Eagles, 2 Golden Eagles, 49 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 1 American Kestrel, and 3 Black Vultures.

However, two other species really stole the show from the raptors. Early in the day, we had a large flock of Snow Geese migrate past. Snow Geese are pretty hard to come by in Centre County, especially in the fall. And then at 1:15, we had three Snow Buntings fly in and land on the gravel parking area, and then forage for about a minute, before taking off and continuing south! The buntings were less than 20 feet away from us, but were unfortunately between us and the sun, so my photos didn’t come out very good. It was great to finally have a day with a large push of raptors, since October was so terrible up at JHV, plus it was incredible to see the Snow Buntings at such close range, particularly since the only other Snow Buntings I have for Centre County were ‘heard only’ when a flock flew over us last weekend at Bald Eagle State Park.

Snow Buntings at Jo Hays Vista (Alex Lamoreaux)

Snow Bunting at Jo Hays Vista (Alex Lamoreaux)

Snow Bunting at Jo Hays Vista (Alex Lamoreaux)

Golden Eagle - juvenile (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

There were a ton of leaves 'migrating' past JHV today, which was frustrating when we were trying to search for distant raptors. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)