As winter begins to tighten its grip on Western Massachusetts, fresh snow falls and this weekend's forecast for an Arctic blast have brought an abrupt end to the relatively calm, mild days experienced in mid-January. While it may be pure coincidence, raptors and owls have become increasingly evident in Franklin County over the last week or so and yesterday afternoon, after dropping Matan for snowboarding at Berkshire East near Charlemont, I came across this stunning juvenile Golden Eagle!
Initially found resting on a low beam, thanks mainly due to a couple of mobbing Common Ravens, it somehow managed to slip away unnoticed and I actually lost touch with it for a little while. Twenty minutes later I was back in business as it soared majestically above the tree tops drifting over the Buckland side of the Deerfield River. At one point it sparred with an immature Bald Eagle, a bird that I'd seen perched by the river a little while earlier. The Golden Eagle appeared several more times over the course of the next 90 minutes and remained active quite late into the evening until I last saw it drifting south towards Ashfield at 16:45 hours.
Golden Eagle is not a common bird in Franklin County. Looking back on my records, I've had very little luck with the species and I believe this is only the third that I've seen in the county since 2005! Fortunately, I've managed to photograph all three but yesterday's bird was especially sweet since it was a pristine juvenile, and in the air for some time. The same overlook by the Deerfield River seems to be becoming something of a sweet spot for raptors with Red-shouldered Hawk, Merlin, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, as well the ubiquitous local Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles, all being seen over the last two weeks including this close encounter with a Rough-legged Hawk on January 8th.
It should be interesting to see if this young Golden Eagle sticks around or whether it was simply moving ahead of the extremely cold weather front forecast for the next 2 - 3 days. Still with the raptor theme I had good views of a Northern Harrier in Whately on the 26th, a species not especially easy to find in Franklin County in mid-winter .