[Tweeters] a genuine Skagit Nothern Goshawk!

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Sat Dec 26 17:22:28 PST 2020

Dear Tweeters,
Thanks again to Kendall Van Zanten for getting the word out about the Northern Goshawk that he found on Fir Island on Christmas Eve!
After Joel Brady-Power called me to say that he'd relocated the bird today, December twenty-sixth, I "skipped seventh-period study hall," so to speak, and raced down to Fir Island. That is to say, I quit my Christmas Bird Count at 1500, to go look for the Goshawk. Luckily, it was a very slow afternoon on the CBC, so Joel had done the same thing!
Joel saw the bird from the "Moore Road Access" on Fir Island. That is the little WDFW access on Moore Road, just a few hundred meters from the North Fork bridge--the bridge between Fir Island and Rexville. I think that the tree where Joel saw it was close to the one where Kendall had seen it two days ago. 
By the time I got there this afternoon, the bird was gone. Joel said it had flown east. Bob Kuntz drove down from his CBC area and joined me in a two-car search. We drove Polson Road, where the bird had been seen by Kendall and then Joel, but had no success. We then took Dry Slough Road north, then took a right and headed east on Moore Road.
Unfortunately, Bob and I could not find the bird, so we said goodbye, and Bob drove off. I took a few minutes to change out of my cold-weather gear, for the drive home, and then headed east on Moore, only to slam on the brakes! The Goshawk was perched in the top of a tree on the side of the road, just a short distance from Moore Road's eastern terminus! This tree is in the front yard of the old Skagit City Schoolhouse. The house next door is a good landmark--it has many Christmas decorations. The lady of the house told me that she's seen this bird around her place recently, and had wondered what it was. 
That was the same story that Joel had heard from a landowner on Polson Road. There are several places in the Skagit City area where people have free-range chickens. I suspect that this Goshawk will stick around, the way one was said to have done on Samish Flats years ago, eating a chicken a day until there were no more left--if I remember the story right.
After I snapped a few bad photos of the Goshawk, a Northern Harrier came by and started harassing it. The Goshawk took off and flew due south, toward what I suspect is its sleeping quarters. There on Polson, just east of its junction with Dry Slough Road, there is a natural hill--the only natural bit of elevation on Fir Island. The eastern end of this hill has a grove of dense conifers. 
A good strategy for birders tomorrow would be to work "Skagit City"--the entire northern quadrant of Fir Island, everything north and east of Polson Road. One tactic is to scope from the Moore Road Access; another is to drive the roads until you find the bird. Good luck to any and all birders attempting to relocate this rare, frustratingly transient bird!
One more thing--I think that this adult Goshawk is a female. It is a big, bit bird. Joel and I agreed that it would probably kick a Red-tailed Hawk's keister, if push came to shove. One would be far more likely to confuse it with a Buteo, or perhaps with a Gyrfalcon, than with a Cooper's Hawk or Northern Harrier.
Yours truly,
Gary Bletsch
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