When a birder hears a flock of Crows, Chickadees or Bluejays screaming and moving rapidly through the trees . . . we drop everything and begin searching for the target of their anger . . . generally a bird of prey.
This is called mobbing, a defense mechanism where much smaller birds can drive away a predator via sheer numbers and aggressiveness.
This morning I was staking out a landfill drainage culvert in Portland (birding can be so glamorous) looking for a Virginia Rail that has been prowling the area. Suddenly about 300 yards away I heard and saw a flock of crows mobbing a large brownish bird. I snapped a few photos with little time to focus or check my settings and figuring they were chasing a Red-tailed Hawk . . . the most common bird of prey in the USA and across the country.
When I got home and “developed” the digital photos I was surprised to see it was a Great Horned Owl being chased. While I’ve heard and recorded this nocturnal bird, seeing a Great Horned Owl in daylight is thrilling.
And after two weeks of struggle, I finally got a new bird . . . a Killdeer. A Killdeer is a very common bird and in couple months they’ll be running around every high school soccer field in the State. But it’s still winter, my slump is over and there are signs of spring migration beginning.
The Killdeer is Maine Big Year Bird #134.