Friday, July 31, 2015

And they are off!

Clickers - Catherine Hamilton

It's started! Southbound migration. Here in Los Angeles those tiny terrors: Rufous Hummingbirds are back and bullying all and sundry at the feeders as they make their way south for the winter. Down along the LA River and out in the desert beyond the San Gabriel Mountains, shorebirds, terns and swallows are starting to pile up at the usual watery oases. Though just a trickle of landbirds so far, we aren't so far removed from the migrant flood.

Though most 'Fall' watches won't start up for a couple of weeks yet it was exciting to see the first flight of raptors reported on Hawkcount from Congaree Bluffs, SC (report here). It always seems weird to me to talk about Fall migration when most of my non-birding friends are still in the middle of their beach season. Of course in reality some birds are on the move most of the year and it always amuses me to think that while many hawkwatch sites are tallying southbound migration, up at the Braddock Bay Hawkwatch in NY (home of the HMANA Raptor ID Workshop) they are counting the northbound push of post breeding dispersal along the Great Lakes (read about the phenomenon here).

Red-tailed Hawk - Luke Tiller

Reading that report from South Carolina I find myself imagining the excitement of seeing those initial couple of migrant raptors breaking over the horizon, as well as enjoying the other soaring birds like Wood Storks and Anhingas as they float by. I wonder if I am the only one out there that gets a vicarious thrill from looking at the day's reports in Hawkcount and reading through the highs and lows of other peoples days out hawkwatching? Being in the Los Angeles Basin means that there is little in the way of any visual migration of raptors, or anything else for that matter, so being able to scan through the reports in the evening is about as close as I get.

I start with sites that I know well: either ones I have counted at or that I have visited. That way you know what you've missed by being miles away, or maybe just stuck in the office all day. As well as keeping up with known sites I also just enjoy looking through and reading the reports, appreciating the descriptions of the flights, the humor of the counters or even just sympathizing with the frustrations of a seasons developments. The real highlight for me though is to look at those sites with mind-boggling flights in Texas, Mexico and Panama and try to imagine the panic, joy and insanity a day with two million raptors might cause (Hawkcount report for Cerro Ancon, Panama here).

Braddock Bay Hawkwatchers - Luke Tiller

Am I alone in this? Or are there other online hawkwatchers enjoying the seasons flight from the comfort of their own office? Of course I have to say that being there for the flights would be better, but when you can't, at least for me, there is always Hawkcount! Maybe I should start a hawkwatchers anonymous for those of us deprived of the real thing by location, work or whatever else in life is getting in the way?

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