Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Raptor Bytes - hawkwatching morsels from around the web

Hawkcount - HMANA
HMANA New Web Presence
As the fall season starts to draw to a close, I am hoping that readers have noticed some recent changes both to our redesigned and relaunched website (here) and some spiffy new updates to our Hawkcount page (if you missed it see the blog post here). All of this has been undertaken thanks to the support of our membership and the hard work of our mainly volunteer team. In the recent HMANA Hawk Migration Studies Magazine we pledged to have a much more active online presence (it is 2013 after all) and the new website will offer part of this.

HMANA 'News'
With the Fall counting season drawing to a close, it can only mean that it is just a few months until the Spring season is upon us. Until then there will be plenty on our website and blog to keep you entertained! As well as the blog, important news pieces concerning HMANA can be found in the 'HMANA News' section on the website. For example, usually the seasons flyway reports are only open to the membership of the organization, but last fall's editions are now up on our website for your perusal (link here). To read the reports click on the icon with the small white arrow in a black box at the top right of the document. You can also download this PDF. For an organization that is focused on conservation it feels right to be putting more of this information online. Reports will at future date be moved to a members only section of the website.

HMANA Conference
In other news our 40th Anniversary Conference is really starting to take shape now (Braddock Bay, near Rochester, NY April 25-27 2014) and we are excited to confirm that a certain British author with a recently published guide to raptor identification will be our keynote speaker at the event.! Keep an eye on exciting event developments here.

California Condors: Good news, bad news
In 1982 only 22 California Condors remained in the wild, however through successful captive breeding programs their numbers have grown steadily. The recovery of this species is still on a knife edge though, with their main threat coming from continuing lead poisoning. For those that care about condors it can only be seen as a good thing that the State of California has recently extended the ban on the use of lead based ammunition statewide. It hasn't all been good news however, with two condors being lost in accidents in Kern County, CA recently (story here). This news followed hot on the heels that October has seen significantly larger numbers of birds than normal having to be treated for lead poisoning at the Los Angeles Zoo (more on the story from the L.A Times here).

California Condor Cam
For those that love raptors then a must see is the Oakland Zoo and Ventana Wildlife Society run Condorcam. As well as the condors the odd Golden Eagle drops in to grab some food as well as the ubiquitous Ravens. Very, very cool (check it out here).

California Condor movie 
Some of you might be aware of the above movie The Condor's Shadow. It has just been announced that it will air on PBS SoCal on Dec 7th at 8pm. Looks to be an interesting movie. You can find out more about the movie, view extra footage and find out more about future screenings on Facebook (here).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

10 good reasons to join us for the HMANA Raptor ID Workshop at Braddock Bay

Red-shouldered Hawk - LukeTiller
HMANA Raptor ID Workshop at Braddock Bay, near Rochester, NY - April 6-12 2014

1/ You get to hone your raptor identification skills in a small group led by Frank Nicoletti, probably one of the most accomplished hawkwatchers anywhere on the planet.

2/ Early April is prime time at Braddock Bay to see the highest diversity of raptors in terms of species: with potential to see seventeen species of eagles, hawks, falcons and vultures. Perhaps almost as importantly the tours timing will also provide the greatest opportunity to grapple with aging, sexing and, where possible, even identifying birds to subspecies.

Merlin - Luke Tiller
3/ Tour timing is perfect to see some big movements of raptors as it falls squarely within the time period that often sees the kind of flight that produces one thousand Red-tailed Hawks, a four figure tree top flight of Sharp-shinned Hawks or more than five thousand Turkey Vultures. How does a day like this spent in one of the countries most knowledgeable raptor experts company take your fancy? Or maybe one like this or this? You can read about a past big day at Braddock Bay Hawkwatch that happened during the same time period on my blog (here).

4/ Between our base camp at Braddock Bay and a day trip or two, it will be great timing to see good numbers of some of North Americas most desirable raptor species such as Golden Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk and Northern Goshawk as well as other potentially locally interesting species such as Black Vulture and Swainson’s Hawk.

Common Redpoll - Luke Tiller
5/ In among the flying raptors there will be other great migratory birding to experience. All of this will allow us to hone our visible migration skills as well as our knowledge of flight calls. How do you separate a Snow Bunting from a Lapland Longspur? A flock of American Pipits from a flock of Horned Larks? The buzz of Pine Siskins from either goldfinch or redpoll? All of this is becoming part of being a well rounded hawkwatcher, and this HMANA Workshop will help you explore and develop these set of skills.

6/ The workshop will also guarantee you a week in the company of both fun and like minded people: what could be more entertaining than kicking back at a couple of the US’s finest spring raptor migration sites with a group of newly acquired friends?

Braddock Bay Hawkwatch - Luke Tiller
7/ As well as years of general experience, both tour leaders have counted at Braddock Bay specifically, so they know where and when to go in the area in order to ensure participants get the most out of the migratory experience and perhaps almost importantly the best places to go grab some fine BBQ and a great beer afterwards!

8/ Get excitingly up close and personal experience with raptors and other birds as we visit the hawk, owl and songbird banding projects that are undertaken in the area. These in hand views of raptors can be invaluable learning experiences.

Dark Rough-legged Hawk - BBRR
9/ Know that your participation will help support the conservation and research work that HMANA undertakes, help provide the resources they provide to counts across the country, as well as assist the important work undertaken by local non-profit organizations like BBRR that are funding the rapotor projects around the country which we all love so much.

10/ All this and you don’t even have to count one bird that is flying past you; well unless you really, really want to.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

(almost) Wordless Wednesday

White-tailed Hawk - Luke Tiller
Just back from an amazing week at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival doing some scouting for a potential future HMANA event (click here to see our website for current events and updates in the near future). Though the news of the week was almost certainly Jeff Bouton of Leica Sport Optics fame discovering the second US record of Amazon Kingfisher (picture and map here), for me the raptor viewing opportunities were the real highlights. It's hard to pick a favorite with such an extensive list of southern specialties down there: Harris's Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Hook-billed Kite, White-tailed Kite, Zone-tailed Hawk, Crested Caracara and Gray Hawk, but you'd be hard pressed not to pick the Aplomado Falcon, even if they might not be technically 'countable' yet.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Winter Raptor Survey season

Adult Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk
The winter season is fast approaching which means time to hit the open country for great raptor watching. If you aren't doing a Winter Raptor Survey route already, I hope you'll get on it and create one or join with someone else. Well worth it and the effort will ultimately help paint a picture of winter raptor distribution across the continent. Ferruginous, Harlan's, Rough-legged hawks, Eagles, Merlins, etc. are getting re-aquainted with their winter haunts as the days get shorter and colder. For most of us these birds are important talismans to the winter landscape that bring excitement to our winter birding. It is always with eager anticipation that I head out in search of these special birds. I'm never sure what I'll find.
     A short outing yesterday produced some nice birds. One of these is the Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk pictured above. This is the same bird that spent last winter in the exact same spot, and possibly for a number of years prior to that. With their unique plumages, Harlan's are great to document long-term winter site fidelity. Another gem was a Richardson's Merlin getting a scolding from two kestrels. I was a bit surprised then to see the male kestrel and Merlin taking a break from the dogfight to sit together for about 30 seconds. Not something you see every day. Four Ferruginous Hawks, including one dark bird, completed the day nicely.
Kestrel and Merlin...momentary truce