Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Broad-wings n' Blustery Days

The migration is continuing to pick up here at Kiptopeke. We have been seeing quite a few Broad-winged Hawk kettles this season, including some that contain up to 70 birds (which is considered a large amount for this site). 

Broad-winged Hawk kettle by Steve Thornhill

We noticed one juvenile broad-wing with an interesting tail pattern, which occurs in a low percentage of individuals. The bird's outer three tail feathers on each side have typical juvenile patterning, while the inner feathers have thicker bars like that of an adult. Notice that the breast is streaked rather than barred, showing that it is a first year bird. 

by Mike Tove

Here are some comparison sketches of a normal tail type (left) versus an adult-like tail (right) which I drew for a Golden Gate Raptor Observatory article a few years ago.

We have also been seeing many Ospreys, including a high count for the season of 365 individuals on 9/23. Local Ospreys have been busy fishing as well.

by Steve Thornhill

Many visitors have been stopping by the platform to help count and to learn about the hawkwatch. Thank you to all for your sharp eyes and good company!

by Mark Hopkin

Last Saturday, a banded American Kestrel passed over the platform! Unfortunately, the band is not readable, but perhaps the bird will be recaptured elsewhere along his journey. Thanks to Steve Thornhill, who noticed the band while going through his photos.

Here is another photo of the Wood Stork that passed by several days ago. The approaching cold front should bring in some more interesting birds, particularly on Friday. The past few days have been a bit slow due to strong winds, but we hope that things will pick up again soon!

by Mark Hopkin


Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy International Hawk Migration Week!

This week is International Hawk Migration Week, a time in which many hawkwatch sites record their peak fall season counts. The week is celebrated by the Hawk Migration Association of North America, and it is meant to raise awareness of raptor migration. We, and many other hawkwatch sites all over the continent, submit our data to this organization.

Tim Barry hard at work spotting raptors
Migration is certainly picking up, and yesterday we had our busiest day of the season so far with 1273 raptors in total. This included 164 Ospreys, 266 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 188 Broad-winged Hawks, and 478 American Kestrels. Today, we had another Wood Stork sighting (quite likely the same bird that was seen on 9/17). The bird flew relatively low over the platform and was heading southwards. 

Wood Stork

Tomorrow, we will be participating in the Kiptopeke Challenge, an annual "big day" fundraising event in which we record all bird species seen from the platform and surrounding areas. Other teams will be participating as well, birding on the Eastern Shore and coastal plain of Virginia. We hope to see you at the hawkwatch soon! 


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Swallow-tailed Kite

Today, a beautiful Swallow-tailed Kite flew over the platform and spent hours hunting for insects and flying around gracefully. In the past 40 years only two other individuals have been seen at the hawkwatch. It is certainly possible that the bird will be in the area again tomorrow. I encourage you all to stop by the platform to check! 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Swallows n' Seabirds

The raptor migration is off to a slow but steady start, with mostly Ospreys moving through over the past week. We have been rewarded with some beautiful, low views of a few birds, like this Bald Eagle (top) and Merlin (bottom).

Photos by Steve Thornhill

We have also been very busy watching non-raptors moving through. Some of these sightings have involved unusually high numbers, such as the 30 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers recorded on September 1 and 19 Red-headed Woodpeckers on September 4. Hundreds of Barn Swallows and Purple Martins have been zipping their way through on most days. White Ibises and Glossy Ibises have been flying past in small flocks, including one single mixed flock of both species. 

White Ibis; photo by Steve Thornhill
Today, a Parasitic Jaeger passed very close over the beach, and a Black Tern flew over the platform. The trees behind the platform were buzzing with passerine activity this morning, including a variety of warbler and vireo species. Tonight's cold front ought to bring in some more interesting migrants, and hopefully an increase in raptor numbers, tomorrow morning. We hope you can join us to enjoy the migration soon!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Migrants are on the Move

Another hawkwatching season has begun here at Kiptopeke, and we are off to a great start! Ospreys have composed most of the raptor flight so far, which is typical during the early part of the season. An Osprey (which we think is probably a single individual, based on plumage characteristics) has been hanging around on the nearby telephone pole, snacking on fish and drying its wings in the sun. Yesterday, a Peregrine Falcon zoomed very low and close overhead.

Osprey with fish; photo by Steve Thornhill
Today, a beautiful Yellow-throated Warbler landed on the platform ramp and foraged for awhile, hopping around and flycatching. Other non-raptor highlights have included 30 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers yesterday, ~337 Eastern Kingbirds today, and hundreds of Purple Martins and Barn Swallows.

Yellow-throated Warbler; photo by Steve Thornhill
My name is Anna Stunkel, and I am returning to the hawkwatch as the counter for a second season this year. I am so excited to be here to experience the migration at Kiptopeke again. Please stop by the platform sometime; the season runs from September 1- November 30 and visitors are always welcome. I am happy to answer your questions and to share the joy of hawkwatching.

Photo by Steve Thornhill