Friday, September 30, 2011

Ah, the Broadwings!

The annual lottery of which hawkwatch site gets to see the most Broad-winged Hawks, those unpredictable birds, is over for another fall. This year provided some interesting results, with a few sites not particularly well-known for their Broad-winged Hawk flights pulling down a few big days. And on the other end of the stick, sites with often large numbers of these hawks ended up with lesser or lackluster flights. But before I get too deep into the overall picture, let’s start with a roundup of the Great Lakes sites, whose routinely large flights can make the northeastern hawkwatchers green with envy.

Hawk Ridge’s (Minnesota) big day was September 15 with 12,790 Broad-winged Hawks. A second big day was September 19 with 6881. For September they tallied 32,675, which is on their low side of average, once you eliminate 2003, when they had a record-breaking 160,537 Broadwings, a total that’s far above the normal range for the site. Their big day total seems to fall into the mid-range category, too.

Next is Holiday Beach (Ontario), with a big day on September 16 with 23,480 Broadwings and a second big day on September 15 with 10,393. For the month they totaled 42,493 Broadwings, the best result there in 10 years.

Hawk Cliff (Ontario) had a big, big day on September 16 with 49,830 Broadwings. The next day was decent, too with 14,595. The September total was 72,221, their fourth highest total, though well behind the 135,329 of September 2000.

And then there’s Lake Erie Metropark (Michigan). Please sit down now if you’re not already sitting. They tallied 190,121 broadwings on September 17, a spectacular day, their biggest broadwing flight ever, more than doubling their previous (and not at all shabby) best flight of 91,471 set in September 2002. Oddly, they didn’t have a second big day this year. Their next highest broadwing total was 2199 on September 25.

Next blog entry I’ll talk about the eastern sites and how they did with Broadwings this year.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - September 2-8

Hurricanes Irene, Katia and Lee were the major players in this past week's fall hawk migration. Unless you were lucky enough to be at one of the midwestern sites, there wasn’t much to cheer about this week. The impact of these storms caused many watches to shut down for 2-3 days, and often the days surrounding the shutdowns weren’t very good either.

The midwestern sites did have some excellent days, particularly for American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Hawk Ridge, near Duluth, had several outstanding days, with the best on September 4. That day the watch counted 2165 birds, including 1859 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 107 American Kestrels. Hawk Ridge also had a super kestrel flight, that one on September 9 with 152. This site also had two great Bald Eagles flights, on September 7 and 8 with 62 and then 52 birds.

Hawk Cliff and Holiday Beach, both in Ontario, also had some outstanding flights. Holiday Beach counted 62 American Kestrels on two consecutive days September 5 and again on September 6. Hawk Cliff counted 103 kestrels on September 5 and 92 the following day.

One species not being counted very much at all so far is the Broad-winged Hawk By my quick and dirty tally, just 731 were counted for the entire month thus far at all the reporting sites. To compare, the month to date tally for Sharp-shinned Hawks is 5527, and even kestrels total 976. Presumably, the broadwing total should take a pretty dramatic upturn this next week, assuming there aren’t more hurricanes to contend with.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - August 26-September 1 and the August Roundup

Hurricane Irene put a damper on many of the eastern U.S hawkwatching sites for a while this past week. Still, the week had more than a few interesting sightings, both in numbers and species.

Hawk Mountain spied the season’s first Golden Eagle, an adult, on August 29, and the next day, Waggoner’s Gap, some 90 miles or so down ridge, also saw an adult Golden Eagle. Naturally, people are wondering if it is the same bird. And then two days later, back east towards Hawk Mountain, but this time at Second Mountain, four experienced hawkwatchers saw a “raggedy” adult Golden Eagle heading west. So did the first bird pull a “fooler” on everyone and head back east again or did we have two different adult Golden Eagles? That’s probably not one we’ll ever know the answer for.

Not to be outdone with unusual August species, Hawk Ridge, Duluth, saw the first Northern Goshawk of the season, also on August 29. Cadillac Mountain in Maine also found a goshawk, this one on August 31.

In taking a quick look at August as a whole, the total number of raptors counted at many of the sites is on the low side, sometimes approaching average at best, though Bald Eagles are still setting records. Bake Oven Knob, Waggoner’s Gap and Allegheny Front, all Pennsylvania, and Franklin Mountain, New York, each appear to have set August records for the species. Franklin Mtn. counted 30, well over their previous August high of 19 in 2008. Waggoner’s Gap counted 101, smashing the 2009 August record of 87. Bake Oven just edged over its old August record of 67 (with 68 this year), and Allegheny Front counted 25 (former record was 23).

Broad-winged Hawks were counted in fairly low numbers at virtually all the sites in August. American Kestrels, always a species of concern, had its ups and downs at the sites during August—except at Hawk Ridge where they counted 194. That’s not an August record—that would be the 270 seen in August 2002—but it’s the third highest August record there. At Hawk Cliff, Ontario, an astounding 73 kestrels were counted just on August 28 alone. That’s certainly the single day August record for that site.

Corpus Christi, Texas, tallied a nice Mississippi Kite total, though not a record, with 16,467. The site had just 68 broadwings during August, when the totals have ranged anywhere between 1 and 623. I expect that number to be considerably higher by the end of the new month.

What will September bring? I hope the new month brings a lot more hawks. Certainly, it will bring the opening of a lot more hawkwatches. And as long as September doesn’t bring another hurricane, that would be much appreciated.

Late note:  Two northern sites, Greenlaw Mtn. in New Brunswick and Maine's Cadillac Mtn. posted triple digits counts on September 1.  The birds are on their way!