Wednesday, October 30, 2013

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

White-tailed Kite - Lloyd Spitalnik
This week's incredible Wordless Wednesday shot comes from New York City based photographer extraordinaire Lloyd Spitalnik. Lloyd is a mainstay of the Central Park birding scene and you may recognize him from the recent HBO documentary The Central Park Effect. You can see more of his beautiful work on his website and his blog also contains some excellent reflections on producing outstanding bird photography (here) . His images have been used in numerous birding publications and last year he coauthored the book Visions, a nature and bird photography collection (here). Thanks to Lloyd for the loan of this stunning shot!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

Osprey - Melissa Groo
This week's awesome (almost) Wordless Wednesday image is kindly donated by award winning photographer Melissa Groo. You may recognize her work from the All About Birds website or her stunning Avocet portrait that graced the cover of Cornell's Living Bird Magazine Summer 2013 issue. You can find more of her breathtaking work on her website (here).Thanks for the loan of the image Melissa!

Note all images on the blog can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New HawkCount feature now online!

Have you seen HawkCount lately?

Now, when you visit you can immediately see all the hawkwatches and the total hawks seen there for each day of the past week.  Daily totals are listed for each site reporting that day, and you can then click on any site’s name to open and view its  full daily report and the hourly totals. The daily lists for the current day (and for the previous day) automatically update every couple of minutes, so you don't need to reload the page to see listings of new reports as they come in.

The new tabular listing only displays the last week’s totals, but all of a site’s information is always available at that site’s page in HawkCount.  Just click on Find a Hawkwatch to locate individual sites or select Monthly or Daily data summaries and then choose the hawkwatch you wish to view from the dropdown list.

For the first time you can now quickly glance through all reporting sites for a given day and see the total number of hawks seen in one spot.  Check it out!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

Western Buteos - James Coe
This week's almost Wordless Wednesday image comes from artist James Coe. His work is known to birders from his seminal Eastern Birds field guide for Golden (view here). The above image is taken from an unpublished plate for the Western Guide. As well as his bird illustration, James is also known for his stunning and award winning oil paintings. He is a signature member of the Society of Animal Artists and member of the Society’s Board of Directors as well as being a keen birder. You can view more of his work on his website (here). Thanks to James Coe for the loan of the image!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Raptor Bytes - hawkwatching morsels from around the web

Google Doodle
Swainson’s Doodle
On Tuesday (October 8th) it was nice to see celebrating the birthday and work of ornithologist and illustrator William John Swainson. Though he lends his name to the common name of three North American bird species, with the hawk being the most important obviously, sadly we weren’t treated to the same celebration on this side of the pond. You can read more about Swainson, his work and his somewhat checkered history by following the link (here). 

Swainson's Hawk - Alex Lamoreaux
Swainson’s Blog - Nemesis Bird
Talking of Swainson’s, this has to be one of the most sought out species for any eastern hawkwatch, and with the insanity of Broad-winged season now passed, it’s a good time to be grilling those passing raptors for a nice rarity. The majority of eastern Swainson's records seem to fall into a period from early October to late November. One of my favorite blogs, Nemesis Bird, produced a series of excellent articles on aging and determining the color morphs of Swainson’s Hawks a couple of years back and you can see part one of the three part article (here).

Nemesis Bird is a fantastic blog with lots of lively and valuable content from a collection of excellent and interesting young writers. A bunch of the team for the blog are also self confessed raptor fiends so raptor fans will find much to enjoy there. Other posts have included such cool ideas as live blogging via ustream from their local hawkwatch (here). One of the Nemesis Bird team, Mike Lanzone, also sits on the HMANA Board. As well as the blog you can keep up to date with what the guys and girls from Nemesis Bird are up to on their facebook page (here).

Possum & Hawk Migration Studies - Luke Tiller
Swainson’s Snaps
I was excited to receive my fall copy of the HMANA Hawk Studies Magazine and it looks like my dog Possum was pretty thrilled too (congrats if you noticed that he is looking at a Red-tailed Hawk, the awesome Swainson’s shot is on the back cover). Fascinating articles on the history of NEHW (so cleverly named they didn’t even need to adjust the acronym when they changed the name) from good friend Neil Currie, in depth Raptorthon reports from Laurie Goodrich, Hawkwatching in Hawaii with Lance Tanino, the fall 2012 flyway reports from across the country, an article about teaming up with the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership and all complimented by some stunning and often full color raptor photography from Steve Byland and Vic Berardi amongst others.

Hawk Migration Studies comes as part of your HMANA membership package so if you aren’t a member already or haven’t signed up for the year you can do so by visiting the membership page of our brand spanking new website (here). You can also download membership brochures to distribute at your local hawkwatch and I would encourage members to do so.

Swainson's Hawk (dark juvenile) - Braddock Bay Raptor Research
Swainson’s Maps
I'm wondering if everyone saw those cool little species maps that eBird were producing - essentially an annual cycle of species reports . This one from March is for the Swainson’s Hawk (here).  Interesting that it doesn’t register the increasing number of individuals that seem to be overwintering on the Gulf Coast (perhaps still not in enough density to be picked up in this kind of data representation). These Gulf Coast birds have been suggested as the potential originators of some of the hawkwatch sightings of Swainson’s Hawk across the northeast.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

Broad-winged Hawk - Catherine Hamilton
This week's (almost) Wordless Wednesday image comes from Catherine Hamilton. Thanks to Catherine for donating the image. You can see more of her work on her blog (here) and follow her on her facebook page (here).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Migration in central Arizona

Adult male Cooper's Hawk, Sierra Prieta Overlook, Prescott AZ, 25 September 2013
       For the last several years, I haven't done a whole lot of migration hawkwatching. I definitely miss being in the thick of migration season at such epic locations as Cape May, Kiptopeke or Veracruz when every day brings the possibility of something amazing. 
        Last year,  my wife and I moved to Prescott, AZ. (near the geographical center of the state) and I immediately began looking at maps to find a good spot to see some migrant raptors. Mountains rise to the west and of town to just over 7000 feet. I noticed a pullout along a dirt road running along a southwest facing escarpment that dropped steeply to the west...the Sierra Prieta Overlook (SPO). Besides looking out over such a view, anyone visiting has to 'overlook' the broken glass from weekend revelry. This spot had potential. 
       Migrant raptors don't congregate in too many places in Arizona to make hours of watching pay off. Yaki Point, on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, has been operated by Hawkwatch International for several years and produces some decent flights. A good place to see Broad-wings reliably. Not far south of here is the Aubrey Cliffs IBA, a volcanic bluff running north of the town of Seligman. Arizona Game and Fish coordinates volunteers to cover this site during fall and decent numbers are seen. South of Tucson along the Santa Cruz River, a recently discovered passage of Gray, Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks is the only other concentration of note. I wanted something a little closer to home. 
      So, with a bit of hope, my binoculars and a notepad, I ventured up to the SPO for a few days last September and saw...nothing. Local Red-tails and milling vultures. I knew the site wasn't going to produce a ton of birds, but maybe a trickle. But I would find out this fall that the site is fairly sensitive to wind direction and speed. I just needed to spend more time. My ego was bruised a bit, but not beaten.
      Why not give Spring a try? I only spent parts of three days in late March and early April and noted migrating Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawk, Swainson's, Zone-tailed and Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon. Numbers were low, but it was encouraging. Other commitments kept me from more days on the SPO, but my gut told me that more birds were passing the site. In a stroke of luck, I was able to convince the Arizona Field Ornithologists to award me a small grant to explore the site in greater detail in 2014. Fingers are crossed for good flights. 
     A couple of weeks ago, on 24 September, I found myself at the SPO scanning the hills and ridges to the north looking for migrants. I had to give the fall flight another chance. I wasn't disappointed this time. The winds were from the southwest (perfect) and there were birds. Needless to say, I was pleased. The totals for 5 hours of watching:
T. Vulture - 42
Sharp-shinned - 10
Cooper's - 24
Red-tail - 12 (difficult to get accurate with local birds confusing things)
A. kestrel - 12 (most of them before 9am)
Peregrine - 2
Total - 102
      On subsequent days, I also observed a few N. harriers and Swainson's hawks, but overall numbers were significantly lower. For the first few days in October, the winds have been northeasterly, which isn't good for the overlook, and migrants have been scarce. But, I will be back up there soon, looking north. My goal for the season is a migrating goshawk. It's just gotta happen.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013