Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Blustery Days on the Bay

Wind, wind, and more wind... only 100 birds by 3:30 today! A blustery weekend led to fairly low counts this past weekend, but fortunately we had great visitors to entertain us, including Ash and the enthusiastic crew from Dickinson College:

Clay kindly caught a Monarch on demand and demonstrated
 the tagging process.

Luckily we did have a fantastic low fly-by of an Adult Bald Eagle while the gang was here, and viewed 330 birds.

We did surpass the 5000 mark on Kestrels!
Great image caught by Charlie Plimpton, our Baywatcher. 

We are also closing in on the 700 mark for Peregrines. 
Steve Thornhill Photo

Still enjoying the Brown Pelicans that like to hang out on the WWII concrete ships in the Bay. 

Another bird of note that swung by last week...
White Ibises by Steve Thornhill

The sunsets over the bay here at Kiptopeke 
are unrivaled. It is truly a joy to be working here. I have 7 more days here with the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory crew, so we have fingers crossed for that Swainson's! 
Please come by and say hi! 
Feel free to bring doughnuts! (Thank you Tim!)

- Caroline 









Friday, October 21, 2016

20k and Counting

We hit 20,000 raptors today in our count at Kiptopeke!
#20,000 was a Cooper's Hawk around lunch time today. 
The afternoon brought in a nice steady stream of birds, and with the storms moving in and winds expected at 25+mph out of the north tomorrow we are looking forward to a big day! 

Steve Thornhill Photo 


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Close Encounters

As we are approaching the end of October, the number of raptors we are viewing is declining. However, we've had a number of close visitors to the Hawk Tower! A juvenile Cooper's Hawk did some hunting from the T-post behind the tower. 

We have had some beautiful mornings here at Kiptopeke State Park. Last week brought us some foggy mornings. Even as the raptor count has slowed down, we are seeing large numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and other song birds. 

Visitors to the tower are still arriving! We've had a number of great groups in the past week, including these polite young men from Boy Scout Troop 911 in Suffolk.

Our visiting groups always enjoy seeing our Model Raptors then trying to identify the birds in flight. 
With help from our Hawk Counter, Anna, of course! 

Our total so far for this season is 19,691 raptors... we are creeping towards the 20,000 mark.
Still seeing primarily Sharpies this week... out of yesterday's 254 birds we had 150 Sharp-Shinned Hawks. Wednesday brought us our season's first Slate-colored Junco as well. 

One of our friends across the bay was lucky enough to have this visitor in his yard this past week:
Pretty amazing to see a Gray Kingbird in this neck of the woods!
Thanks Tim Barry for sharing. 

We love meeting new people and having our next generation of birders visit us...
Please come see us soon!
Happy Birding! 









Saturday, October 15, 2016

Golden Days

Thursday brought us our first Golden Eagle of the season, a juvenile, which certainly brought excitement to an otherwise slow week of hawk-watching. We are still seeing a number of immature Bald Eagles. Charlie Plimpton, our Bay-watcher, took this amazing shot last week:

Steve Thornhill got a great photo of this immature Bald Eagle with a meal on the go:

The Golden Eagles are quite similar to immature Balds.
"Best field marks are golden hackles, legs feathered to toes, head projection less than half tail length, and tri-colored bill and cere."
(A Photographic Guide to North American Raptors, Wheeler & Clark)

We are still enjoying seeing a steady stream of accipiters and a handful of Peregrines.
Steve Thornhill 

"The Place"

Turn back in time a thousand years or more;
An Indian stands upon this very shore.
The virgin forest that surrounds him sings 
With hidden whispers of a million wings.
No human foot before his trod this place;
The wonder of it's written on his face.
He speaks in awe, but no one hears his words,
"This place is Kiptopeke, the place of birds."

(Kiptopeke Chronicles, Walter Post Smith)

Walter Post Smith was a founding bander of the Kiptopeke Bird Banding Station and was its primary champion from the 1960s through the 1990s. 

We also viewed a lone Sandhill Crane last week, a fairly rare sight this time of year.

The Monarch numbers moving through are increasing, and have kept our Monarch tagger quite busy this week. 


Please join us at the Hawk Tower and enjoy the beautiful fall weather on the Eastern Shore.
Hope to see you soon! 






Saturday, October 8, 2016

Busy Days on the Chesapeake Bay

Kiptopeke Total Fall Count through October 7:

Peter Harris Photo

  "I think here is your emblem
To hang in the future sky;
Not the cross, not the hive,

But this; bright power, dark peace;
Fierce consciousness joined with final

Life with calm death; the falcon's
Realist eyes and act
Married to the massive

Mysticism of stone,
Which failure cannot cast down
Nor success make proud."

-Robinson Jeffers

We have been fortunate to have an extremely busy week with large numbers of raptors passing through, including 33 Northern Harriers on Thursday. Lots of visitors to the Tower for our presentations during the Eastern Shore Birding Festival as well.

Steve Thornhill Photo

"Harriers have slender bodies and wings. They fly buoyantly and often unsteadily, with a few easy wing strokes and a glide. The harrier's white rump patch shows well at long distances and is a good mark at hawk-watches. The V set of the wings on soaring and gliding birds is a good early mark as well. Except for the rump patch, male and female harriers have separate plumages. 
Adult males are blue-gray above and extensively white below, with contrasting black wing tips. Adult females are brown above and tawny below, with dark streaking. They weigh more than males by half, on average, and are several inches longer. Young birds are brown above, like females, but have rusty-colored breasts."
(All the Birds of Prey, Paul Lehman)

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon
Steve Thornhill Photo 

 Juvenile Peregrines can be distinguished by the browner plumage
 and streaked rather than barred underparts. Adults are dark gray to black above and heavily barred below. 

Other sightings from Kiptopeke and the Eastern Shore this week:

Red-eyed Vireos
Timothy Barry Photo

Great Blue Heron 
Edgar Kyle Photo

Eastern Hog Nose Snake 
Edgar Kyle Photo

Ray Pena with Lanner Falcon
Ray, from Flight of the Raptor, was visiting us during the Kiptopeke Birding Festival.

With the rain heading our way this weekend, the first of next week should be a great time to come see us at the Hawk Tower... we should see lots of birds next week! 
See you soon!

- Caroline 





Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Plethora of Peregrines...

Peregrine Falcons were the raptor of the day yesterday with a count of 72 on an otherwise extremely slow day. 
A rainy morning and slow SE wind day contributed to a low count of only 112 birds on Saturday, but the Peregrines kept us all on our toes nonetheless. 

One of the wonderful things about participating in a hawk count on Virginia's Eastern Shore is all of the amazing species we are able to view in addition to our raptors.
Here are a couple of our visitors from this past week:

Brown Pelican 

Pine Warbler
Photos courtesy of Steve Thornhill 

Hopefully with weather conditions improving and wind picking up we will see larger numbers of the Sharp-shinned Hawk this week. This common accipiter will fly at low altitudes on a windy day, and higher on light wind days. With their snappy, rapid wingbeats, these hawks are one of the easier ones to identify as they tend to flap more frequently than other birds of prey. 


"Of the three North American accipiters, Sharp-shinned is the earliest riser, sometimes beginning its  day's passage before sunrise. Cooper's Hawks and Northern Goshawks start their journey somewhat later - possibly to hunt first or, more likely, to wait for thermals to perk. During migration, an early-moving accipiter is most likely a Sharp-shinned. 
Juvenile birds precede adults. Fall migration for Sharp-shinneds begins during late August, peaks during the last week of September or the first days of October, and continues into early December. 
Juvenile accipiters constitute most of the birds recorded at East and West Coast hawk-watching sites, while adult birds account for more than half of the accipiters passing interior hawk-watch sites."  (Hawks in Flight, P.Dunne, D.Sibley, C. Sutton) 

Also on the increase this weekend was the number of visitors to the Hawk Tower. Great to have so many knowledgeable enthusiasts with us! 

Hope to see many more guests at Kiptopeke State Park this weekend for the Eastern Shore Birding and Wildlife Festival. Lots of fun activities are planned and the Birding should be fantastic. See you on the Tower!