Monday, December 10, 2018

Season's End

The last two weeks of the hawkwatch season were filled with interesting sightings. Although raptor activity was slow during the last week, a good amount of movement occurred during the week before Thanksgiving. On 11/17, there was a nice flight of 65 red-tails and 117 raptors in total. On this same day, a red-shoulder perched on the t-pole, allowing for fantastic views and photo opportunities.


Red-shouldered Hawk photos by Steve Thornhill
 A Golden Eagle was seen on 11/23, marking the fifth sighting of this species for the season.

The first Snow Geese of the season were seen on 11/22, when a flock of ten birds passed. This small trickle was followed by a storm of about 800 Snow Geese the following day. Chilly temperatures may have helped to bring on this spectacular goose flight.

Snow Geese by Anna Stunkel
Good flights of Common Loons occurred in the latter half of November, with daily loon numbers sometimes reaching into the thirties and forties.  Tundra Swans continued to pass by in small flocks. Five American White Pelicans went by on 11/17, and two were seen on 11/29.

There was a grand finale on the last day of the season, which was very special. A massive passerine flight occurred that morning, with numbers including 3,270 American Robins, 1,330 Red-winged Blackbirds, 710 American Goldfinches, 263 Cedar Waxwings, 120 Dark-eyed Juncos, and 60 Chipping Sparrows. Thank you to Brian Taber for helping me keep track of the flight!

Again, it was an excellent season here at Kiptopeke. Highlights of the fall (along with those mentioned above) included:
  • 327 Ospreys on 9/16, 319 Ospreys on 9/23, and 3,538 Ospreys in total (the highest total for this species since 1997)
  • 241 Broad-winged Hawks on 9/20, and 1,357 broad-wings in total
  • 515 American Kestrels on 9/20
  • 200 Merlins on 9/27
  • 1 Mississippi Kite on 10/10
  • 1 Swainson's Hawk on 10/18
  • 72 Red-tailed Hawks on 11/4 
  • 22 Red-shouldered Hawks on 11/8 
  • 1,375 Peregrine Falcons, which is the third highest season total recorded at this site; there were four days in a row of between 89 and 121 peregrines seen per day in early October
  • 617 Bald Eagles in total, which is a new season record (shattering the previous 2009 record of 462)
  • Five Golden Eagles this season
  • 1 Wood Stork and 1 Lark Sparrow on 9/4
  • 1 Anhinga on 9/5 and 2 Anhingas on 9/6
  • Several nice Great Blue Heron flights, including 105 birds on 9/22, 90 birds on 10/5, and 141 birds on 10/16
  • American White Pelicans: 34 on 10/22, 5 on 10/24, 5 on 11/17, and 2 on 11/29 
  • 1 Sandhill Crane sighting on 11/10 and again on 11/11
  • 264 Tundra Swans on 11/13
  • Good numbers of Pine Siskins, American Goldfinches, and Purple Finches during November
Similarly to last year, the Sharp-shinned Hawk total was unusually low. Only 2,708 birds were recorded this season, which is well below average. This continuing trend suggests a possible population decline, considering the low reports also being recorded at other Eastern hawkwatch sites. Again, a lack of strong cold fronts during the peak of the season may have also contributed to the low total.

Thank you to the many regulars and newcomers who helped out this season. It was wonderful to have your help and good company. And thank you to the many visitors who stopped by to enjoy the wonder of migration.

I encourage you to stop by the platform and keep an eye out for interesting birds. Raptor migration is winding down, but you might see a few Red-tailed Hawks (and if you're lucky, a Northern Goshawk or Golden Eagle) passing by. You might also have a chance to observe migrating passerines (such as finches, blackbirds, and robins) and Snow Geese. 

Happy birding to all!