Thursday, September 17, 2015

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries September 5-17th

The last two weeks have been busy at Hawk Ridge, despite a long period of warm temperatures and south winds. The birds don't seem to mind heading into the wind, even the warblers. For example, the last two days have had excellent warbler flights of 1500-2,000 each day despite the strong SW winds. Warblers have been the highlight of the non-raptor flights recently, with excellent diversity still available before the flight shifts over to mostly Yellow-rumps. On September 9th we identified 22 species of warblers, which is especially impressive since most of these were identified in flight! The season total for warblers is now over 44,000, certainly our best season ever- but the amazing part is that this doesn't even include the push of Yellow-rumps which comes in late September and early October (and is always the bulk of the warbler total). It is pretty much guaranteed we will see some additional very large warbler flights in the next few weeks. Over 210,000 non-raptors have already been counted this season, and the flight is starting to shift from early season neotropical migrants over to late season shorter-distance migrants. For example, the last week brought first arrivals of American Pipit, Lapland Longspur, Eastern Bluebird, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, White-crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Harris' Sparrow, and Rusty Blackbird.

Raptor flights have also been good despite all the southerly winds, with healthy numbers of mostly juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawks zipping through every day. Ospreys, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Cooper's Hawks, American Kestrels, and Merlins have all been moving in good numbers as well, with an especially good falcon flight, including a peak of 159 kestrels and 41 Merlins on September 9th. We had a nice early push of Broad-wings September 7-12th totaling about 10,000 birds, and the highlight of the last few weeks was a five day stretch when we saw Swainson's Hawks every day. No doubt there is another push of Broad-wings to come, hopefully this coming weekend during the annual Hawk Weekend!

Beautiful beautiful blue! Blue Jay against an impossibly blue sky. One of the highlights of the last  two weeks has been the incredible numbers of Blue Jays migrating through, including a record high count of 10,812 on September 11th (a total I didn't think was possible when I started counting here in 2007). Another big day came on September 15th when a total of 7967 Blue Jays were counted riding a nice NE tail wind down the shore. Although east winds are generally not as productive as west winds for migration, for whatever reason it does seem to motivate corvids to fly. The season total for Blue Jays is now 44,000, which is the second best season ever so far, but no doubt there are many more Blue Jays still planning to be clicked.

juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk racing over Hawk Ridge in an attempt to make sure it gets counted by our team! A total of 6501 Sharpies (also called shawshanks or shark-skins by some) have been counted this fall already, which seems like a healthy number for mid-September. A total of 899 were counted on September 11th when this photo was taken.

Adult Peregrine Falcon attacking Blue Jay! Although these two birds were fairly distant and I had to crop the photo, it was awesome to watch, and somewhat surprising that the Peregrine actually missed the Blue Jay. This was the day we counted over 10,000 Blue Jays, so there were plenty of them for the Peregrine to miss!

Osprey directly over the hawk watch platform. A total of 143 Osprey have been counted this season, including 21 on September 13th.
Female American Kestrel attacking the owl decoy. A total of 627 kestrels have been counted.

Flock of American White Pelicans over Hawk Ridge. A total of 211 pelicans have been counted from the hawk watch, including 71 on September 12th 
Merlin stooping directly downward at the owl decoy in evening light, one of my favorite raptor photos of the fall so far.  This has been an excellent season for Merlins.

Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory


  1. Wow, absolutely incredible photos! Thank you.

  2. Wow! It looks like a great season so far. I even saw there was an S&A sighting at the ridge. What diversity! Keep on counting those shawshanks 😂, and hopefully I can make it up there sometime in October.

    Telemetry Boy

  3. The photos are stunning! We'll be there next week. Save some birds for us!