Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries, 7-14 October 2014

This has been another great week at Hawk Ridge, filled with a great diversity of raptors and fantastic fall color. Raptor migration has been steady. From 3-10 October we had a very prolonged period of NW winds, and the raptors responded to these ideal conditions, with over 1,000 hawks counted for six days in a row from 4-9 October. The majority of this flight has been Sharp-shinned Hawks, but good numbers of most other species have been seen as well. A high diversity of raptors is typical for this period in early October when early season species such as kestrels and broad-wings mix with late season species such as Rough-legs and Golden Eagles. In late September we began seeing noticeable numbers of adult male Sharp-shinned Hawks, so it seemed that perhaps the end of the Sharp-shin migration was nearing (adult males are the last age group to come through), but all week we have been amazed at the number of Sharpies zooming through, most of which are adults, and many of which are adult males. The peak for Sharpies was on October 8th when 1185 were counted. Other accipiters were plentiful all week as well, including 16 Cooper’s on October 8th and 18 Northern Goshawks on October 9th. An adult Red-shouldered Hawk flew over the ridge on 14 October, the second Red-shoulder of the season. During the next few weeks, we should see peak numbers of goshawks, Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks. It’s a very exciting time of year at Hawk Ridge!

juvenile Northern Goshawk flying directly in front of the counting platform- too close to fit in the frame! It has been a great week for goshawks- although most have juvenile birds like this one, three adult-type birds have also been seen

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk going for the owl decoy! Rather amazing numbers of Sharpies have been moving through, including a peak of 1185 on 10 October, most of which were seen before noon, including a peak hour of 313 (!) , when the gangs of Sharpies lining the Ridge looked almost like migrating robins
One of the highlights of the week was this adult Red-tailed Hawk which made several passes at the owl decoy right in front of a crowd of visitors!
Non-raptors have been relatively quiet this last week, following the amazing multiple-day flight of 3-6 October detailed in last week’s blog. In some ways it was a relief to see all those birds finally move on, since there was such high mortality among the ones that had been littering local roadsides for so many days. I am still puzzled why so many Yellow-rump and Palm Warblers took to feeding along the busy roadways. The highlight of the week was clearly the kinglet and creeper migration, something that had not been detected in such numbers here before. In the last ten days nearly 1,000 kinglets have been seen, which is more than ten times the number found in previous seasons. The peak flight was on 7 October when 262 Golden-crowned Kinglets (record high count for the state), 44 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, 153 unidentified kinglets, and 29 Brown Creepers were all seen. Most of this kinglet migration has been on the shore, where it occurs low in the trees or just above the trees.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet migrating just above the trees
Golden-crowned Kinglet migrating just above the trees. Although many kinglets were too quick to be identified, the face pattern between the two species was surprisingly easy to see in flight. Golden-crowns seemed much more likely to call than the Ruby-crowns, which helped when counting 262 Golden-crowns on 7 October!
 American Crow numbers have been building and will likely peak in the next week or two, when days of multiple thousands are likely. A set-up flight of 1,166 was tallied on 14 October. We continue to see more Common Ravens than usual, including 78 on 9 October and 74 on 10 October.  If this pace continues, we may see a record number of ravens by the end of the season, since the peak migration is usually not until late October or early November. A total of 750 ravens have already been counted. Purple Finches and Pine Siskins are moving in good numbers as well, including 506 Purple Finches on 10 October and 649 Pine Siskins on 11 October, but since finch flights are so unpredictable, its not clear whether more are to come or they have already peaked. Over 250,000 non-raptors have been counted this season so far, and there are many more to come! In the next few weeks we will see the tail end of American Robins, Eastern Bluebirds, Rusty Blackbirds, sparrows, etc., but we expect to see some later season species such as Snow Buntings, Pine Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, and Northern Shrikes.

Fox Sparrow migrating over the trees. We have seen a surprising number of sparrows engaging in morning flight this year, many times more than previously. Over 50 Fox Sparrows have already been counted this season.
Dark-eyed Junco migrating overhead. Many more juncos have been seen migrating than usual, including some that  have been quite high. On 14 October with north winds, we saw many flocks of juncos high overhead! Nearly 3,000 juncos have been counted so far this season, and we will hopefully get another wave in the next few weeks.

American Robin flashing its red breast and underwings as it migrates by. This species is usually are most common migrant, and this year is no exception- over 60,000 have been counted so far, including an awesome flight of 23,395 on 4 October (third highest count to date)
view from the summit at Hawk Ridge in evening light with fall color
photos and text by
Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

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