Monday, October 6, 2014

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries 1-6 October, 2014

This afternoon, I told a visitor, wondering how long we count each day, that we try to stay out as long as migrants are moving. What a audacious statement; birds are on the move around the clock! This time of year, the fun never stops! Visible migration continued to amaze observers this past week on Hawk Ridge and along the north shore of Lake Superior.

The first two days of October were rather uneventful. A rainy day on 1 October allowed counters and others to re-group (do laundry) and prepare (more laundry) for the next onslaught of migrants! The second was very quiet with only 28 raptors tallied. A late Common Nighthawk was observed on the afternoon of the second making multiple passes at a Monarch butterfly, but repeatedly decided against ingesting it. That evening brought a drastic change in weather with very strong NW winds, rain, and falling temperatures. The cold front had arrived!

American Robin. Tens of thousands of these beautiful birds washed over Duluth in the past week.
Following the passage of this front, the north shore of Lake Superior got walloped by birds beginning on the morning of 3 October with lots of birds continuing in the area through 6 October. The very strong winds and drizzly conditions put birds down in large numbers in any (even somewhat) suitable habitat. Non-raptor highlights of this major push of birds were many, but included:

A three day total of 43,543 American Robins (peak flight of 23,395 on 4 October).

A three day total of 7,811 Rusty Blackbirds (peak flight of 4,956 on 4 October).

405 Northern Flickers on 4 October.

Over 4,000 warblers (mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers, but with good numbers of Palm Warblers and quite a bit of straggling diversity) on 4 October.

Literally thousands of sparrows (especially White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos but with good numbers of Fox and White-crowned Sparrows) lining streets and yards throughout the city.

494 Purple Finches on 5 October.

Over 100 Golden-crowned Kinglets on 5 October.

Immature Red-tailed Hawk. Note the pale primary panels (it helps to squint a bit) and banded tail.
The overcast skies and drizzle kept raptor movement on 3 October rather modest compared to the non-raptors with a day count of only 247 hawks. The next three days, however, all produced flights of over 1,000 raptors!

The peak flight of the last week was 1,816 raptors on 5 October. Highlights of the day included 277 Bald Eagles, 752 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and the first Rough-legged Hawk of the season, an adult female. Red-tailed Hawks also put in their best showing to date with 187 tallied and small numbers of Broad-winged Hawks are still straggling through.

Raptor flights from 4-6 October produced three day totals of 1,909 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 515 Bald Eagles, and 238 American Kestrels among 3831 raptors!

Here are a few photos from the past week or so to take it away...

Merlin bombing past the platform

Six Snow and four Ross's Geese. Note the smaller bill and shorter neck of the Ross's Geese.
Red-breasted Nuthatch casting it's gaze down the ridge

Male Black-backed Woodpecker!

Steve Kolbe
Assistant Counter

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