Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hawk Ridge Banding Report: November 16-December 8 and Final Season Totals

Raptor Banding Report

This period saw many good days that were cold and blustery with northwest winds and produced a moderate number of raptors, but there was a notable lack of an eagle flight and dwindling numbers of Northern Goshawks. However, certainly the highlight of the period (and the season) came on 21st when a Snowy Owl was seen coming into the station and was captured. It had been migrating down the ridge low and was captured by last season's "unofficial" intern Rachel Harris. The owl was a very healthy hatch-year male that weigh 1735 grams. This is the first Snowy Owl ever captured at Hawk Ridge and represent the 25th species of raptors banded at Hawk Ridge in it's 43 years of operation (that includes 16 hawks and 9 owls)!

Rachel Harris and the first Snowy Owl ever banded for the project (David Alexander)

The season this year was extended into the first week of December. Several Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks and eagles were seen along with adult male Northern Goshawk, the only raptor captured during the week.

Last raptor banded this season, ASY male Northern Goshawk (Frank Nicoletti)

A total of 18 raptors were banded during this period  (November 16- December 8) and the month total of (75). The following are the results: Northern Harrier-0 (3 month), Sharp-shinned Hawk-0 (3), Northern Goshawk-10 (35), Red-tailed Hawk-2 (17), Rough-legged Hawk-5 (16) and one Snowy Owl. This however does not include the already reported numbers of owls banded in November as reported by Madison McConnell in the last banding blog.

The season started on 13 August and ended 8 December, 2014. It was a very successful season with 3,869 raptors (hawks and owls) captured and is above last season totals by nearly 700 raptors, but well below the 2011 and 2012 total by almost 1000 raptors each year. This season totals of diurnal raptors are as follows: Bald Eagle-9, Northern Harrier-41, Sharp-shinned Hawk-2,390, Cooper's Hawk-37, Northern Goshawk-105, Broad-winged Hawk-16, Red-shouldered Hawk-1, Red-tailed Hawk-110, Rough-legged Hawk-21, American Kestrel-31, Merlin-85, Peregrine Falcon-8, Prairie Falcon-1 and Snowy Owl-1. The owl numbers are as follow: Northern Saw-whet Owl-979 (includes 42 already banded) Long-eared Owl-32 (2 from Moose Valley) and 4 Barred Owls.

Update on Satellite Tracking

The adult male Golden Eagle "Jack #53"  is near the Missouri-Arkansas border.  He arrived on about Nov 29. This is very close to his wintering area of the past 2 winters. So far he has traveled 2200 miles from his breeding ground which he has spent the past two summers above Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories   He started his migration on the 18 October and was recorded near Duluth on the 14 November.

Tracking Jack is part of the Golden Eagle Tracking project of Audubon Minnesota & The National Eagle Center in cooperation with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory & the Minnesota DNR Nongame Program.

# 53 Jack movement this fall 
The Turkey Vulture "Tommy" that was captured and fitted with a wing tag (#400) and satellite transmitter in early August,  started it's migration on 4 October and reached it's wintering ground on 27 October. Its been making local movements in southern Mexico near the Guatemala border.

Tracking this Turkey Vulture is part of the Turkey Vulture Migration Project of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in cooperation with Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory.

Turkey Vulture "Tommy" migration from Duluth to southern Mexico.

Turkey Vulture "Tommy" local movements southern Mexico.
A full banding summary will be included in the Hawk Ridge Newsletter with many of the important details. Please consider becoming a member of the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory to receive this and learn about the many other important activities that Hawk Ridge conducts during the year.

I would like to thank the staff and the many volunteers who made this season a great success.
Thank you and have a great Holiday Season!

Frank Nicoletti
Hawk Ridge Banding Director

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Count summary November 17-30th

Hawk Ridge count summary November 17-30th

The end of the season was quite slow, with numbers of most raptors and non-raptors trailing off to virtually zero the last few days. Sadly, there wasn’t any final push of eagles or Rough-legs, and the finches that had been so abundant tapered off the last week. In some years, migration continues well into December, but this year it seems most birds have already moved through. Of course, with very little snow on the ground, there are still Rough-legs to our north, and the chance that more will move through. The raptor count of 59,781 is about average for the last ten years, while the non-raptor count of 357540 is the highest count to date. I will post a more in-depth season summary, but for now would like to thank everyone who helped with the Hawk Ridge count, especially my able-bodied co-counter Steve Kolbe, and indefatigable volunteer counter Dave Carman.

Adult Bald Eagle gracing the Hawk Ridge sky. It easy to grow numb to these grand birds when you see tens of thousands over the years, but I think this photo shows just how gorgeous they can be. This fall's count of 5032 Bald Eagles is the second highest season count to date, but there was no sharp peak at the end of the season as there often is, and the numbers were just spread out throughout the season. For unknown reasons, this seems to be a recent developing pattern.
Common Raven stooping at the owl decoy at Hawk Ridge. This was one of 209 counted on November 20th, which was an amazing day for ravens, as gang after gang moved along the ridge, often stopping to heckle the owl. This count is not only the highest for Hawk Ridge, but also apparently the whole state. This culminates an exceptional season for ravens, with a grand total of 2337 counted for the season, which is the highest season to date by a wide margin. Why so many ravens this year? And where are they going?

Snowy Owl trapped at the main banding station on November 21st and released at the main overlook. Thank you Hawk Ridge banders!
Snowy Owl taking flight! This was the second Snowy Owl recorded at Hawk Ridge this fall, with another seen migrating over the Ridge on October 31st. 
Karl Bardon
Count Director
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory