Friday, October 16, 2015

Raptor and non-raptor count summary October 6-15, 2015

We have now counted over 400,000 non-raptors and 68,000 raptors, so it seems likely that our goal of
half a million birds will be reached sometime in the next few weeks. This is by far the best non-raptor count ever, and it will likely be the best raptor count since 2004. These great totals are due in large part to the excellent counting skills of Alex Lamoreaux and Kaija Gahm, who have been a great team on the Ridge this year. I would also like to thank the help of our many experienced volunteers, including Steve Kolbe, Dave Carman, Jan and Larry Kraemer, Kathleen MacAulay, Joe Beck, Scott Moorhouse, Don Kienholz, Reed Turner, Russ Edmonds, and Karen Stubenvoll.

Needless to say, large flights of birds have been seen the last ten days. We had several days in excess of 20,000 non-raptors on October 6th and 13th, but it seems that almost every day recently has been busy. This is the busiest time of year for volume of non-raptors, and they certainly haven't disappointed us! Blistering flights of mixed non-raptors have included flocks of hundreds of American Robins and Rusty Blackbirds, which are often mixed with Purple Finches and other assorted species. Often in the air at the same time are American Crows, Common Ravens, Horned Larks, Eastern Bluebirds, American Pipits, various sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Lapland Longspurs,  The number of warblers has dropped off sharply and even the Yellow-rumps seem to be mostly done. Replacing them are the first Northern Shrikes, Bohemian Waxwings, Snow Buntings, Pine Grosbeaks, and Common Redpolls. It appears we are going to have another large finch flight this season, made up mostly of Purple Finches, Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls.

The raptor flights have also been busy, especially with Red-tailed Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks, but we are still getting at least a few individuals of most raptor species. Red-tails have finally begun to outnumber Sharpies, with counts of 658, 714, and 792 Red-tails the last three days October 13-15th. These flights have including a high proportion of dark/rufous type Western birds, including 13 on the 13th, and the first Harlan's Hawk of the season (a light morph adult) was seen on October 14th. Golden Eagles, Northern Goshawks, and Rough-legged Hawks have all started moving in good numbers, including 12 goshawks on October 14th and 6 Goldens on both October 13th and 14th. All of the goshawks seen have been juveniles, so it seems this was a good production year for them, but it clearly will not be an invasion year (since "invasions" are mostly adults, and typically peaked in mid-October). During the next few weeks we will see the peak of the Red-tailed Hawk migration, which s my favorite time of year, so come join us!

American Robin in flight showing off its rufous breast. We have counted 84,311 of these sturdy fliers, which is our second best season so far, including flights of over 10,000 on October 6th and 13th.

A flock of American Robins and Rusty Blackbirds flying out over the lake, a typical scene recently, which gives a sense of what the bird really look like when we count them!

Dark-eyed Junco in flight, a very common sight recently! We have counted 5277 juncos so far, our best season ever, including 1593 on October 7th and 1224 on October 13th. Many juncos have been seen flying overhead throughout the day, which is unusual for Hawk Ridge.

Yellow-rumped Warbler in flight on overcast day, a typical view of these abundant little "jello-butts". This has been an amazing season for warblers, with 75,114 counted, including 10,866 Yellow-rumps. This is by far the best season ever for warblers, since our average in the last nine years for total number of warblers is about 21,000 and for Yellow-rumps that average is about 2600.

Hermit Thrush on the road at dawn, a frequent sight as I drive to work before sunrise. Although a common breeding bird to our north, for whatever reason very few Hermit Thrushes are seen in morning flight (unlike Swainson's Thrushes, which have been found to be a relatively common feature of the morning flight the last few years).

Merlin harassing the owl decoy at Hawk Ridge. We have had excellent Merlin flights this season, and are now getting many adult males. The season total is already at 354, which is only a few birds away from the best season ever in 1997 when 362 Merlins were seen.
Alex Lamoreaux counting birds in front of a rainbow and fall colors on Thursday. Not a bad place to work, eh? Not shown is the howling northwest wind! 

Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

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