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!

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