Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hawk Ridge count summary, week of 23-30 September 2014

Most of the last week has been warm with clear skies and southerly winds, but good numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks and other early season species have been moving through anyway, including 863 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 95 American Kestrels, and 16 Peregrine Falcons on the 28th when the temperature hit 80 degrees! What cues do these birds use to migrate? Did they “know” about the approaching front the next day on the 29th (when winds shifted to the east and temperatures stayed in the 40s)? The pressure was not sharply decreasing, and conditions were similar well to our north where the birds were likely coming from. The longer I watch migration, the more of a mystery it becomes.

juvenile Northern Goshawk flying in front of the counting platform at Hawk Ridge. Despite being the signature species for Hawk Ridge, with more typically seen here than anywhere else in the country, relatively few goshawks have been seen at Hawk Ridge thus far.
The last two days on 28-29 September have featured massive flights of non-raptors, but each day was vastly different. On Sunday the 28th an overwhelming but more enjoyable flight surprised us on a day with clear skies, calm wind becoming southwest, and temperatures hitting 80 degrees, while the flight on the 29th was an exercise in futility and frustration as uncountable thousands of birds breezed through during the passage of a front, with heavy overcast skies and temperatures only in the 40s. These birds on the 29th were riding a strong northeast tail wind, putting them way too high overhead to spot efficiently against the heavy overcast sky, and so likely many thousands of birds were missed. It is difficult to stress just how many birds were likely moving during such a mass migration event. An interesting report from Dan Nolfi doing radar research on migrating birds up at Little Marais indicated the magnitude of migration seen on the morning of the 29th was unusual for daylight hours, so I believe this morning flight was a rare glimpse at what it potentially looks during nocturnal migration at the peak of migration. The total number of birds counted on these two days included 6125 robins and 8315 warblers on the 28th, and 1603 Canada Geese, 2617 robins and 7712 warblers on the 29th. The majority of warblers being seen now are Yellow-rumpeds. This two day total of over 16,000 warblers brings the total number of warblers counted this season to over 38,000, which is the best season since these non-raptor counts started in 2007. The highlight of the flight on the 28th was a remarkable number of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers bombing through, with a total of 98 counted, which is the highest count for Hawk Ridge, and the second highest count for the state. Smaller numbers of Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings, Rusty Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Purple Finches, Pine Siskins, and American Goldfinches have also been mixed into these waves of birds. The migration is switching over from early stuff like mixed warblers, Blue Jays, Cedar Waxwings and Red-winged Blackbirds, to later arrivals such as American Crows, Rusty Blackbirds, American Robins, and Pine Siskins, which will dominate the flight in October. A few flocks of Cackling and Snow Geese have finally showed up, and on the 29th we saw 4 adult Ross’s Geese flying right out in front of the overlook with 6 Snow Geese.

A White-throated Sparrow engaging in redirected migration after sunrise, or "morning flight". This bird was part of a record flight of White-throats last week, including 2166 on September 21st and 4034 on September 22nd. This is by far the most White-throated Sparrows we have counted in morning flight. Although most of these migrants were flying low to the ground, some flew up over the trees such as this one. 
Another view of a White-throated Sparrow in active morning flight
immature White-crowned Sparrow migrating over the trees in early morning sunlight
An unusual view of a White-throated Sparrow flying overhead!
A more typical view of a White-throated Sparrow, this one at the Hawk Ridge feeder in front of sumacs in full fall color
photos and story by
Karl Bardon
Hawk Ridge Count Director

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Volunteering was only the beginning...

This post is a little story about me. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I would like to show how volunteering at Hawk Ridge can make a big impact on a person and that impact can lead to inspiring a person over again. Volunteering is a cycle of giving that keeps going and going thanks to many passionate people involved.

When I was in school for my bachelor's degree in Outdoor and Environmental Education at University of Minnesota, Duluth, I had to take a class about field interpretive techniques. It was in that class that I was introduced to Hawk Ridge. We learned about the nature reserve, the migration and raptors. We had an assignment to volunteer at either Hawk Ridge or the Great Lakes Aquarium. I choose Hawk Ridge because after learning about the migration from Tim Bates, I was very inspired and awestruck about how cool this place was. Since I was a new mom and a student at the time, I did not get to volunteer as much as I would have liked to, but I have some very fond memories of that season.

I remember volunteering in the pouring rain and huddling next to the old merchandise trailer, with only the plastic overhang for protection. We were waiting to see if a few visitors would show up. Indeed, a few visitors did show up and they were delighted that we were there to talk to them about Hawk Ridge. I also remember the first banded bird I was able to hold that year. It was a "Gray Ghost"! Commonly known as an adult, male, Northern Harrier. I felt very lucky and I was thrilled when it was offered to me to hold it. This bird may even be the one that really touched my heart and inspired me to keep working with Hawk Ridge.

The next year when the fall season came around, I was still very interested in Hawk Ridge. I really wanted to learn more about it and I wanted to practice my education skills to further connect with the birds and the people at Hawk Ridge. I decided to call Debbie Waters (the education director at the time) to see if there was a place for me. Debbie decided that I would be able to be trained as a substitute naturalist. I was on-call if someone could not come in. I could not stay away that year. I decided I would come up and volunteer as much as I could. I remember going up many days after I finished with classes or before. I think that my husband (boyfriend at the time) thought that I would rather be up there with the birds, than be home with him and our son. And I have to say, it was a very high priority on my list at that time. I was feeling the migration fire and didn't want to miss a minute!

The next year, I completed my administrative internship with Hawk Ridge and gained daily experience as a naturalist at the Ridge. This was great for me and the organization, as I was able to learn about all aspects of Hawk Ridge. I was a naturalist at the overlook, I learned about the board of directors and the committees, and I also worked on a lot of special projects to help further the education at Hawk Ridge.

When I was not at the overlook, I spent a lot of time volunteering at the banding station with Banding Director, Frank Nicoletti. I found out very quickly that this was another great place to be at the Ridge! It did not take long and I had the migration fire lit in me again, but was experiencing it in a different way this time at the Ridge. I volunteered at least once or twice a week at the banding research station. I helped with banding research for songbirds, owls and other raptors. I was so grateful to be learning about this aspect of Hawk Ridge.

Through all of my experience volunteering and interning at Hawk Ridge during the fall season, I was also learning a lot about the role of the Volunteer Coordinator. I worked closely with Julie O'Connor (former Volunteer Coordinator) and learned a lot about what needed to be done from year to year. When the position came open, I went for it and I'm now in my second year as the Volunteer Coordinator. I still get really excited about being at the Ridge. I look forward to reaching out to new volunteers and teaching them about this special place. I love to see people that get excited like I did from the beginning and keep coming back. I also love to watch the visitors smile, as volunteers greet them and connect with them through conversation and stories.

Hawk Ridge has an infectiousness about it. When people come and feel excited and enthusiastic about this place, it rubs off on all the others around. This is what happened to me during my first year, when I was taught about Hawk Ridge and assigned to volunteer.  I can only hope that I can continue to portray that same kind of excitement and enthusiasm to keep the ball rolling.

So there you have it, a little about me. However, I should say that I am not the only one who started out this way. There are many people that are staff or part of the board that also started as a volunteer and continue to do so. There is a spark at Hawk Ridge ignited by the beautiful birds and migration, which creates a passion to volunteer and passion to stick around. To this day, I still get so excited when I get to see a "Gray Ghost" floating along the tree-line, as I remember my first experience with one at Hawk Ridge as a volunteer.

Katie Swanson
Hawk Ridge Volunteer Director

Hawk Ridge Education Report

"The mission of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is to protect birds of prey and other migratory birds in the Western Lake Superior Region through research, education, and stewardship." 

Weekly blog reports on the research part of our mission have been posted, so it's appropriate we also update you with an education report.

To date, we have delivered 26 private, paid education programs.  We have 35 more scheduled, and I'm sure that number will go up.

This includes 17 Hawk Ridge Primers, a 45-60 minute program that gives the basics of 'what is a raptor', why so many fly past Hawk Ridge every year, the history of the Ridge, and the banding and counting research that we do.  We also touch on what happens to that data and some of the findings based on the data.  These primers have mostly been given to college biology or ecology classes, but we also give an age-appropriate version of the primer to many homeschool groups.  With the wide-age range of some homeschool groups, we do our best to make sure that the youngest and oldest walk away with new knowledge of raptors. If available, we also provide an opportunity to see a banded bird.  Note: We are giving our Primer program on weekends for $5 per person, in case you are interested!

The program total also includes nine 'Experience Hawk Ridge' programs, which are given to 5th grade classes.  These classes cover much of the same things as the primers, but they also include some fun activities that keep the students learning and engaged throughout the 90 minute program.  As with the primers, we always hope that we can share some raptor magic and build connections to birds by having a banded raptor to show them.  They learn about the boreal forest, raptor adaptations and clues for identification such as size, shape and behavior.  They learn to use binoculars and often get to try their hand at identifying and counting raptors in flight.  Students then compare their count data to that of the count staff at the platform. It's fun to readily acknowledge the comparison in numbers!

These programs are all designed to create a connection to birds and to inspire interest and learning.  How do we know if we are successful?  Well, evaluations are one way. But, it made my heart glad last week when students hung back to ask me more questions, especially, "How can I get a job like this someday?"  I replied, "Do you have any binoculars?  How about a field guide?  If not, put one on your wish list.  Find people that know about birds and like to watch them.  They can help you." Visit Hawk Ridge! Then, the teacher said, "How about your Grandpa?  He knows about things like this and I'm sure he would love to help you."  It was great watching the students leaving happy and excited. I felt content.

I encourage all the kids and visitors too to learn as much as you can.  Keep coming back to visit Hawk Ridge. You are the future of the bird conservation research & education of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory. You are the future of the planet, which includes healthy habitats for birds and all life. 

Gail Johnejack
Education Director

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hawk Ridge Evening Owl Programs!

Owl Evenings at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve
Weekends Beginning Friday September 26!

The Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve is well known for its amazing views of migrating raptors and songbirds throughout the fall season. While visitors may be familiar with the research and education efforts conducted by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory staff during daylight hours, most people are unaware that we continue working throughout the night!

Northern Saw-whet Owl (photo by Michael Furtman)
The evening Owl Program will shine a light onto the mysterious nature of the nocturnal migrants flying over Hawk Ridge. Participants will learn about the research methods being used to study owl activity in the area as well as how to identify many of the species that can be observed in Northern Minnesota by sight and sound. This outdoor evening program takes place at the education lecture area at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve.

Hawk Ridge Naturalist, Margie, with Barred Owl (photo by A. Geniusz)

The cost to attend the owl program is $5 per individual or $20 for a family.  A maximum of 60 participants may attend each Friday or Saturday night. All tickets are available for purchase at the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve main overlook merchandise trailer or by calling (218) 428-6209 between 9am-4pm.

Evening Owl Program Schedule
Fridays & Saturdays 

Oct. 4 8pm
Oct 10 8pm
Oct 11 7:30pm (kids program 12 & under - must be accompanied by adult)
Oct 17, 18 8pm
Oct 24, 25 8pm

Long-eared Owl banded at Hawk Ridge (photo by K. Stubenvoll)
NOTE: Owl programs can only be done when weather conditions are favorable, so some cancellations are to be expected. When this happens, ticket holders will be notified via phone prior to the start of the program and  have the option of attending a future owl program if openings remain. However, because of the popularity of this program and the limited number of nights it can be offered, there may not be openings available that fit your schedule. Unused tickets will be applied as a donation to support the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory bird conservation research and education programs. We appreciate your support!

If you have questions, contact us at owls@hawkridge.org or call us at 218-428-6209 or ASK us at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve between 9am-4pm daily.

Thanks and we hope to see you at the Ridge this fall!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hawk Ridge Banding Report-September 11-20, 2014

Passerine Banding Report

During the period of 9/11-9/20, there were 224 birds banded at the Hawk Ridge Passerine Research Station. Thrushes were moving through in good numbers during the period. Highlights were banding Pileated Woodpeckers on both 9/16 and 9/17. The cumulative total is 1393 birds banded through 9/20. These numbers are higher compared to last year's slow pace.

David Alexander

Raptor Banding Report

The raptor movement has certainly picked up with several days of good flights. The raptor banders have been busy and putting in long days. Some highlights among the 1,035 raptors banded included two Bald Eagles captured on the 20th, an adult at Paine Farm and a third year at Moose Valley, 7 Broad-winged Hawks captured between all stations on the 16th, an adult female Peregrine on the 14th and two Richardson's Merlin during the period.  Owl migration started on the 13th when David Alexander and Kaitlin Alford opened the nets for 3 hours, however no owls were captured, even under good condition. The owl migration has been slow with a few Northern Saw-whet Owls, but unexpected was an early Long-eared on the 17th.

The numbers for the period are as follows; Bald Eagle-2, Northern Harriers-9, Sharp-shinned Hawk-945, Cooper's Hawk-9, Northern Goshawk-1, Broad-winged Hawk-8, Red-tailed Hawk-9, American Kestrel-11, Merlin-32, Peregrine Falcon-2, Northern Saw-whet Owl-6 and Long-eared Owl-1.
Nova Mackentley with adult Bald Eagle (Karen Stubenvoll)

Chris Neri and Madi McConnell looking at molt (Kaitlin Alford)

Adult female Peregrine Falcon (Chris Neri)

"Richardson's" and "Boreal" Merlin's, both hatch-year male (Chris Neri)

Madi and Kaitlin's First Northern Saw-whet Owl
Frank Nicoletti
Hawk Ridge Banding Director

Monday, September 22, 2014

Raptor and non-raptor count summaries 17-22 September, 2014

Female Northern Flicker
It's been another wonderful week of migration at Hawk Ridge!

Large flights of raptors occurred on three days during this past period. The 17th featured 2451 Broad-winged Hawks and a nice flight of 93 American Kestrels. After two slow days, Broad-wings were at it again when 2783 were tallied on the 20th along with 934 Sharp-shinned Hawks. A low subadult Golden Eagle put on quite a show as did two Swainson's Hawks. The following day, raptors were up early and stayed there until late in the day. In the end, 7219 Broad-winged Hawks were counted along with 821 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 126 American Kestrels, and 13 Peregrine Falcons.

It is safe to say that the flights on Hawk Weekend did not disappoint the crowds. Saturday started off a bit slow but ramped up nicely culminating in some fairly large kettles doing what Broad-winged Hawks so often don't do: come in low, kettle overhead, and glide away!

Male American Kestrel
Raptors were far from the only birds on the move this past week. Warbler diversity is on the down swing, as Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers have started to dominate. However, all sorts of other birds are just starting! Sparrow migration is ramping up along with finches, Rusty Blackbirds, American Robins, Lapland Longspurs, kinglets, etc. It's an exciting time at Hawk Ridge!

17 September produced three Red-headed Woodpeckers, over 5800 Blue Jays, and over 400 Pine Siskins. Hopefully this is the start of a large siskin flight this fall! Common Raven migration seems to have already started, as 55 were tallied.

The first two Cackling Geese of the season flew past on the 18th highlighting an otherwise slow day on the ridge.
Two Canada and two Cackling Geese. Note the smaller size and (especially) shorter neck of the Cackling Geese. These smaller geese also have a quicker wingbeat relative to Canada Geese.

The flood of American Robins that will wash over the area in the coming weeks started on 20 September when nearly 750 were counted along with another large Blue Jay flight of over 3300.

On 21 September, birds of all sorts cranked it to 11 and ripped the knob off. From sunrise to sunset, there wasn't a moment when lots of birds were not all over the sky. A nearly uncountable first hour featured over 3000 warblers, and over 5200 (mostly Yellow-rumped Warblers) were tallied by day's end. The Yellow-rumps never really stopped, and throughout the day it was easy to see some of these birds flying quite high while the counters were scanning for Broad-winged Hawk kettles! An early morning liftoff of Broad-winged Hawks also made counting raptors and non-raptors at the same time quite challenging. Northern Flickers featured prominently in the day's flight, with 479 counted along with 43 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. Sandhill Cranes put on quite a show throughout the day with a day total of 298. Another Red-headed Woodpecker flew past the ridge mid-morning, and 4700 Blue Jays, 2100 White-throated Sparrows, and over 100 Catharus thrushes also participated in the flight. Wow!
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
22 September featured another good non-raptor flight, although not nearly the same intensity as the previous day. Highlights included 85 Cackling Geese (the majority of which were in two flocks), and over 4000 White-throated Sparrows. The first Harris's Sparrow appeared under the feeders on the ridge today.

Hope to see you at the ridge in the coming weeks!

Steve Kolbe
Assistant Counter

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Farewell and thank-you to outgoing board members

On behalf of the board of directors of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory, I want to thank all of you who participated in our fabulous Hawk Weekend! Especially, I want to thank the thousands of Broad-winged Hawks who made an appearance, right on cue. It's amazing how this year the weather and the migration coincided perfectly with our Hawk Weekend festival.

I also want to recognize our three outgoing board members, who dedicated 10 years of service on the board of our organization, and have all been instrumental in guiding our organization even before we incorporated as Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Jerry Niemi is an ornithologist, a professor in the department of Biology at the University of Minnesota - Duluth since 1988, and a senior research associate at NRRI (Natural Resources Research Institute). He has been a mentor to many students over the years. Jerry is also on the board of the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) and the Raptor Research Foundation (RRF). Jerry has led our Research Committee for 10 years, and challenges us to continue to grow as an organization.

Jerry Niemi in Argentina for RRF meeting 2013, photo by Bonnie Niemi

Tim Bates is the Associate Director of the Recreational sports Outdoor Program, and Assistant Director of the Center fof Environmental Education at the University of Minnesota - Duluth.Tim chaired our Education committee for 10 years, and also served as Board Chair for 6 years. Additionally, Tim has enthusiastically supported our Birdathon by winning the non-motorized the division on multiple occasions! Tim's optimism and his perspective will be missed; he also challenges us to pursue our vision for the future.

Tim Bates at Hawk Ridge in the off season 2012, photo by Karen Stubenvoll

Jan Green is truly a Hawk Ridge original. She was a volunteer hawk counter when it was still called "Hawk Hill". Her fondest memories include documenting the broad-wing flight (~15,000) on September 15, 1961, and the flight of Northern Goshawks on October 30, 1962, when she counted 169 in 3 hours (94% adults). She was one of the original founders of Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in 1972. Jan is the author of several books pertaining to conservation in Minnesota; has previously served on the board of the National Audubon Society; and continues to serve on the board of Minnesota Audubon. Jan also served as secretary of the Hawk Ridge board for many years. We honored Jan at Hawk Weekend 2014 with the Legacy Award -- a new award for a very special person. We really will be unable to fill Jan's shoes, however we wish her well in her "retirement"! 

Janet Green on the count platform at Hawk Ridge, September 21, 2014
Thank you, Jerry, Tim, and Jan, for your years of service to Hawk Ridge.

Blog post by Karen Stubenvoll, board chair, Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory

Saturday, September 20, 2014

An Incredible Weekend at Hawk Ridge!

What an incredible weekend it was at the Hawk Ridge main overlook.  We had a wonderful crowd of interested and excited visitors.  We taught programs, pointed out birds, showed wings and talons, and led banding stations tours.  Volunteer, Susan Bauer, helped children make bird masks out of paper plates and binoculars out of toilet paper tubes.  Our banders caught and banded birds, our counters counted.  The weather cooperated beautifully and the birds came. 

Two happy, young visitors!

On Sat. 9/20, when I was done teaching the main part of Eyes on the Skies, our beginning hawk watching class, and as we were working on our quiz page we suddenly, heard Dave Carman yell out, "Golden Eagle!"  We dropped our quizzes and brought our binoculars to focus on the golden.  We got a pretty good look at it and broke into smiles and laughter.  Shortly after that, the counters called out a Northern Goshawk.  Two great moments in a row.

A beautiful day.

Later, we watched Broad-winged Hawks kettle, stream over us, and then kettle again, right over the overlook.  The birds swirled in different directions, low, where we could all see them without straining at our binoculars.  It was beautiful.  We ooohed, aaahed and laughed with delight.  People told me they were hooked, that they would be back again.  So many visitors, volunteers and staff said over and over, "What a great day"! 

Not every day is so extraordinary.  But every day, every moment really, has that potential.

Come join us.  Experience the magic.

Gail Johnejack
Education Director

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Migration Magic Workshop - REGISTER TODAY!

Experience the Magic of Migration with this new 2-day workshop at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve taking place Sunday, September 28 and Monday, September 29, 2014. 

American Kestrel by Cory Ritter
The North Shore of Lake Superior is one of the premier migratory routes for raptors and songbirds in North America. Hundreds of thousands to millions of birds migrate via this route, and many of them pass directly over Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. In this workshop, on location at Hawk Ridge, we will explore the background of how this corridor developed and the forces behind such an exceptional migratory corridor.

Banding Director, Frank Nicoletti (photo by Karen Stubenvoll)
Participants will have the opportunity to observe the migration in motion, learn from expert staff about specific types birds, their life histories and adaptations, follow daily trends on how the 2014 migration season is progressing, and observe the research efforts in place at Hawk Ridge, including the passerine, raptor and owl banding stations. What an opportunity for up close views of a wide variety of bird species! Join us for the experience of a lifetime.

This is a very busy and hands-on class, so class size is limited (min. 7, max. 12). Course will take place rain or shine, so the show must go on regardless of the weather. Course fee is $120 and covers materials and resources. Course Instructor: Margie Menzies and other Hawk Ridge Staff.

For more information and registration: http://www.hawkridge.org/events/migration-magic-workshop/

Northern Goshawk by Erik Bruhnke

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hawk Ridge weekly count summary 7-16 September 2014

This has been another great week at Hawk Ridge, with lovely weather and loads of birds! Raptor numbers are slowly building, but I don't think we have hit peak migration yet. The cooler weather this week with lows in the 30s and 40s pushed some good numbers of Broad-wings into our airspace, with over 13,000 seen in the last week, including a nice flight of 5554 on September 15th. Many of the kettles were seen late in the day on the 15th so we were hoping this was the set-up flight for an even bigger flight on the 16th, but the clear blue skies were mostly empty of kettles and only 329 Broad-wings were found. The variety of raptors has been excellent, with all of the regular species except for Rough-leg being seen on the 16th, including several early Golden Eagles on the 15th and 16th, single Swainson's on the 12th and 16th, and as many as 9 Peregrines on the 16th. The 16th also saw an excellent flight of American Kestrels (photo below), including a morning count of 104 on the shore. Recent forecasts show another front coming on Saturday with westerly winds, so I am sure all those raptors are just waiting for hawk weekend to fly by!

Female American Kestrel flying a few feet over the hawk counting platform at Hawk Ridge. Thank you!

Non-raptor migration has been amazing this week, with record numbers of Blue Jays and thrushes. We have had a good movement of Canada Geese this week, including 2066 on September 9th, which is one of the higher counts from Hawk Ridge, but oddly enough no other species of geese have been seen. Where are the Cackling Geese? Sandhill Cranes and American White Pelicans have also been regulars in small flocks, including a good count of 112 cranes on September 11th. The Great Egret which was also seen on September 11th is an unusual sight for Duluth, and only the second I have seen from Hawk Ridge. No doubt this was probably the peak week for Blue Jay migration, including really good days of 4,102 on Sepetmber 9th and 4732 on September 11th, but then an amazing 9,490 flew by on September 15th, which is a new one-day record for Minnesota! For several hours in the morning, there was a nearly continuous river of Blue Jays following the same invisible path along the shore. What a sight! Over 27,000 Blue Jays have been seen this week alone.

Blue Jay in migration over Hawk Ridge
Another view of a Blue Jay in migration over Hawk Ridge
large flock of migrating Blue Jays
But despite this record flight of jays, the highlight of the week has to go to an even more amazing flight of thrushes. Although Swainson’s Thrushes are an abundant nocturnal migrant, when hundreds or perhaps even thousands can be heard, these shy and reclusive birds are seldom seen in any numbers during the day, and are not usually thought of as a species which typically engages in redirected migration after sunrise. Normally these nocturnal migrants put down before it gets light out and disperse into woodland habitat where they are only seen on the ground in very small numbers, so it seemed quite unusual to see a large morning flight of thrushes after sunrise on September  13th, including 74 Swainson’s and 4 Gray-cheeked (and 37 unidentified Catharus thrushes), which as far as I know is a record diurnal count for Swainson’s. Many were quite high above the trees, some were even in small groups, many were calling, and others were identified by taking their photo and zooming in to see the distinctive face pattern (today’s digital technology allows us to take a quick photo that shows us detail we could never see with binoculars as a bird quickly flies by).  Although it was tempting to think this was the peak of thrush migration, on September 15th an even larger flight occurred, although fewer individuals were identified to species in the morning flight (it takes a perfect combination of low flying birds and sunlight to be able to identify them). Before dawn beginning at 4 am, I heard hundreds of Swainson’s Thrushes and counted 40 Gray-cheeked Thrushes mixed into the continuous peeping of the Swainson’s. Then, just as the sun rose, thrushes began flying out in redirected diurnal “migration”, resulting in 46 Swainson’s, 6 Gray-cheeked, and 188 unidentified catharus thrushes being counted, certainly the largest such flight I have witnessed. Every year we document something new and amazing with our non-raptor counts, and this year the highlight has certainly been the morning flight of thrushes. I think Swainson's Thrushes are one of the most common migrants along the North Shore, but because they mostly migrate at night and are reclusive by day, most people do not realize how truly abundant they are (think about how many Swainson's Thrushes you see each fall in normal birding); in previous years I have heard fall-outs at dawn twilight with so many calls ringing through the air that the numbers were simply uncountable. Who knows, perhaps there is an even larger flight of thrushes to come yet this year! I included some of the photos I took of Swainson's Thrushes the last few days to give an idea of what they look like in flight overhead.

Swainson's Thrush flying overhead in morning sunlight, showing the buffy wing stripe
Another view of a Swainson's Thrush in flight showing the buffy spectacles which distinguish it from Gray-cheeked Thrush
Swainson's Thrush engaging in redirected migration well after sunrise
Another view of a Swainson's Thrush flying directly overhead, showing the wing stripe- in flight they resemble small stubby American Robins

rainbow in front of Hawk Ridge- we waited ten minutes for a bird to fly through this brightest of rainbows but we were not so lucky

Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory