The Hawk Ridge counting season finally ended on November 30th, and I am thrilled to report that we reached our goal of counting half a million birds. Even more impressive is that we reached this goal with just the non-raptors, without having to add the raptors. The season totals are now just over 500,000 non-raptors and over 76,000 raptors. The "2015 Songbird Super Flight" was awesome and unprecedented, especially considering that the previous best non-raptor count was 358,815 in 2014 and the eight-year average for these counts prior to this year was 235,000. The big question is: why is there this upward trend in numbers of songbirds counted at Hawk Ridge, and will it continue? I am already excited about what may happen next year. The best part about the amazing number of birds this year was that it occurred when we had the great "Team 2015" on hand all day every day to count every tiny speck that chose to fly by in daylight hours: Karl Bardon, Alex Lamoreaux, Kaija Gahm, and Steve Kolbe. There were also numerous volunteer observers available to help with the endless streams of birds.
The raptor total of 76,850 is the best season since 2004, owing to good flights of Broad-wings (40,767), Sharpies (17,812), Red-tails (7772), and eagles. Highlights include a record number of Merlins (373), the second highest seasons for Bald Eagles (5667) and Peregrines (149), the third highest season for Golden Eagles (209), and a single Mississippi Kite.
The non-raptor highlights are literally too numerous to mention, with new seasonal highs for many species, and many new record daily counts. Some of these numbers were beyond what I thought was even possible. The most numerous species/groups were: the second best season of 87,271 American Robins, an almost unbelievable 76,702 warblers of 25 species including 61,997 unidentified warblers, a record invasion of 67,452 Common Redpolls, a record season of over 50,000 Common Nighthawks, the second best season ever of 61,382 Blue Jays, a record season of over 48,000 Cedar Waxwings, and a total of 15,820 unidentified passerines (just in case anyone thought we could identify everything that flies by- we can’t!)
Some of the highlights from the fall 2015 season at Hawk Ridge are detailed with photos I took below:
|Flock of migrating Blue Jays. The season total of 61,382 is the second best season ever, while the peak one-day count of 10,812 on 11 September is the first five-digit day for the state.|
|This flock of migrating Cedar Waxwings did their part to bring the fall season total for 2015 over 48,000, the best year yet. The flight of 12,842 on 1 September was a new one-day record.|
|Young male Rose-breasted Grosbeak showing off its red underwing coverts. The total of 198 grosbeaks counted on 1 September was a record one-day count, and part of an amazing flight of 91667 birds that day!|
|Common Nighthawk catching a bug as it migrates over Hawk Ridge. The 2015 season count was over 50,000, with peak daily counts of 13,723 on 29 August and 28,054 on 1 September (the latter is the third highest count for Minnesota).|
|"Little Frankie" the Merlin attacking the owl decoy at Hawk Ridge. The season total of 373 was the highest ever, in 44 years of standardized data!|
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory