Sunday, September 25, 2016

All Eyes on the Sky...

Big day today at Kiptopeke

With numerous visitors assisting with the spotting, 
we had a new high count today with a total of 1108 raptors! The day started a bit slowly, but after lunch we had a steady stream of birds, including a count of 405 Osprey! 

Photo by Steve Thornhill

Brian and I had a lovely group for the Hawk Identification Workshop, and they were able to practice their new identification skills after lunch as we witnessed 13 Northern Harriers, 16 Peregrine Falcons, and 296 American Kestrels on their flights south. 

This fantastic shot by Steve is of an adult male Northern Harrier. 

The Peregrine Falcon is always an exciting sight at the Hawk Watch. These amazing birds are such an adaptable species, they can live in almost any habitat in the world. They can be found on every 
continent except for Antarctica, thriving in cold tundra as well as hot deserts. 
The Peregrines that nest on Arctic tundra and then migrate to South America for the winter may fly up to 15,500 miles in a year!

Thanks to conservation efforts, the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the 
U.S. Endangered Species List in 1999. 

"Perhaps because of their amazing flying and hunting skills, Peregrine Falcons have had cultural significance for humans throughout history. To this day, they are still one of the most popular birds in the sport of falconry, and in ancient times they were considered the birds of royalty. Today, Peregrine Falcons that are trained as falconry birds are sometimes flown by their trainers at airports to scare off ducks and other birds that could collide with a plane and cause accidents. These falcons are helping to keep our skies safe!"
(The Peregrine Fund.)

One of the fan favorites today, although not a raptor, was the Northern Flicker,
 of which we viewed 267 today!!

Thank you again Steve for these fabulous shots! 

We are having such an amazing season, and it's not even October yet! 
It looks to be another gorgeous day on the Eastern Shore tomorrow, 
so we are hoping for another exciting day before more rain comes to the coast. 
Look forward to seeing more of you in the near future, and in the meantime, 
keep your eyes on the sky! 







Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Rainy Days on the Bay

Storms from the tropical system may have led to a back-up the past couple of days, 
but today the lanes were clear, and what a day Anna and I had... 990 birds total! 
Falcons were flying through steadily, with an American Kestrel count of 329!

 Although some Kestrels migrate all the way to Central America, 
many spend the winter in the southern United States. 

Thanks to Steve Thornhill, here we have a beautiful shot of one going over us at Kiptopeke. 

 We were fortunate to have a number of visitors at the tower today that
 helped us spot during the big rush this afternoon after the rain moved out.
Also on the journey south today were 291 Merlins. Lovely shot of one clocking us by Peter Harris. 

The weather looks to be nice again tomorrow as well as through the weekend...
 don't forget the Kiptopeke Challenge is this weekend! Hope to see you all there! 



Monday, September 19, 2016

A Fine Kettle

The sunsets here at Kiptopeke State Park are just as lovely as the sunrises...

Photo by Joe Beatty.

On Friday, the 16th, we were fortunate to view a kettle of 52 Broad-winged Hawks. Now although Anna and Brian can identify and often age these birds even as specks in the sky, I would be much happier if they would land on the tower so that I could do so. However, second best to that scenario is having a wonderful photographer, like our friend Peter Harris, send photos! 
Here we have a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk.
Note the thinly barred tail and streaking on the breast instead of the reddish barring. 
The majority of the Broad-wings that we have seen here so far have been juveniles making their first south-bound journey. 
This adult has thick, bold bars on the tail and reddish-brown barring on the chest versus streaking. Also note the more distinct trailing edge of the wing on the adult. 
I imagine the majority of readers of this blog already know these differences, but for aspiring identifiers like myself, this is extremely helpful! 
Very grateful to Peter Harris for the wonderful shots! 

Now I better get back to spotting for Anna... Happy Birding! 
We hope to see you soon! 



Sunday, September 18, 2016

Early Birds

A beautiful morning at the Hawk Tower at Kiptopeke! 
Anna is already on the lookout for this morning's migrators. 

We have had some wonderful visitors this week, including this lovely female Rose Breasted Grosbeak, who delighted viewers yesterday at the feeder. Tim Barry took this lovely shot.
I am excited to be this year's Hawk Watch Educator/ Intern, and thrilled to be surrounded by so many expert raptor identifiers... I will learn so much from this crew! Looking forward to meeting new, and old, visitors to the Hawk Tower... please come see Anna and me when you get a chance! 
Peter Harris took this amazing shot of a Bald Eagle, and Anna pointed out that this is a 4th year...
Just lovely!! 
Yesterday's count was 354...
So many amazing birds are passing through, I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the CVWO team for this year's season. Hope to see you soon at Kiptopeke! 



Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Rollicking Raptors!

The days are getting busier, with 476 raptors counted yesterday and 204 raptors today.  Kestrels and Ospreys continue to move through in large numbers, while Broad-winged Hawks and Merlins are also increasing. Yesterday, I was even treated to a beautiful view of a Mississippi Kite gliding over the platform.

A cold front is expected to pass through on Wednesday night, which should bring in many migrating birds of all shapes and sizes. If you are hoping to visit the hawkwatch platform or search for passerines along Kiptopeke's trails, Thursday and Friday should be good days in which to do so.


One of many Ospreys seen from the platform. Notice this bird's M-shaped wings, with white wing linings that contrast with dark flight feathers.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cicadas at Kiptopeke

Did you know that there are a variety of different cicada species found on the Eastern Shore? Each species has a slightly different call, and a chorus of these insects can be heard from the platform each day. Occasionally we will also get visitors, such as the one pictured below. Cicadas begin life as nymphs which hatch out and stay underground, feeding on roots for years before they emerge and shed their exoskeletons. The shed skins can often be found attached to bark during the summer. Adult males produce that incredibly loud sound, which is intended to attract females, using ribbed membranes called tymbals located on the abdomen. A cicada's call can reach over 100 decibels!


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Raptor migration is picking up

Our hawkwatching days are starting to get busier, with just over 200 raptors counted today. In particular, we have had nice American Kestrel and Osprey movement. Both of these species have been migrating in bursts, with groups of 2-8 birds often flying together. We look forward to the really big days, which should begin in the next week or two. Stay tuned for updates, and we hope to see you at the platform.


Adult Bald Eagle. This bird shows unmistakable field marks up close, but from a distance it is easily identified by shape. The Bald Eagle holds its wings stiffly outwards in flight, in a flat, plank-like manner.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Post-storm Update and Songbirds in the Pokeberry Patch

Now that the tropical storm has passed, we can get back to hawkwatching! The raptor flight was slow today, with just 40 birds passing the platform this afternoon. However, there may be a slight delay in raptor movement following the bad weather. Hopefully the floodgates will open in the next few days.

Meanwhile, songbird activity has been busy in the pokeberry patch. Blue Grosbeaks (pictured below), Eastern Kingbirds, a Baltimore Oriole, and a Pine Warbler were among the visitors today. As migration picks up, this berry patch is likely to become a haven for many hungry migrants.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Hello from this year's fall hawkwatcher

Hello everyone! My name is Anna Stunkel, and I'm the hawkwatcher at Kiptopeke this fall season. I'm from Massachusetts and have spent seasons hawkwatching at sites in California, Idaho, and Maine. My love of bird research has also led me to work with songbirds, seabirds, and woodpeckers in various parts of the country, and I spend free time drawing and painting wildlife (here is my facebook page). I am very excited to witness the spectacle of raptor migration here at Kiptopeke, and to share the joy of watching these beautiful birds. Please stop by for a visit to the platform if you have a chance, and I would be happy to talk with you about the migration site and the forty-year-old hawkwatch program.

Also, take a look at this Red Fox who has been hanging around the platform!