Hawk Count-September 20th Through 26th

Migrating Osprey are soon coming to a close, so this view on the 25th was rather nice to see

Raptors: The last week has been excellent, with more than 2,000 raptors moving through. In fact, this week alone nearly tallied (46%) half of all the raptors recorded this season. We are now significantly ahead of last year’s pace with more than 1,000 raptors tallied than this date last year in the season. Compared to last year through this date, significantly more Sharp-shinned Hawks (1,886 vs. 1,213) and Broad-winged Hawks (860 vs. 475) have been tallied. In fact, we have didn’t reach or exceed today’s current seasonal Sharp-shinned Hawk total (1,886) until October 9th (13 days later) last year! The only species not ahead of last year’s pace is Turkey Vulture (923 last year through today vs 760 this year). However, they are expected to significantly pick up very soon.

Peregrine Falcons picked up during the period and will be peaking soon

September 20th: 243 raptors of 8 species were tallied. Sharp-shinned Hawks (172) had another nice day and American Kestrels (23) had their best day of the season at the time.

September 21st: A total of 515 individuals comprised of 10 species resulted in the best day of the season at the time. Sharp-shinned Hawks busted out of the gate 20 minutes into the count and didn’t start slowing down until 3:00. An incredible 341 birds were recorded. This tied or exceeded every single previous DAY total but one! This was over 100 more Sharpies than last year’s peak of 217 birds. American Kestrels also had their best day of the season so far, with 25 birds. Likewise, Red-tailed Hawks had their first double-digit day of the season in the form of ten birds. The second Red-shouldered Hawk of the season was tallied as well.

September 22nd: Rain and thunderstorms occurred during most of the count period resulting in only 1 Sharpie and 2 Kestrels being tallied.

September 23rd: Another day with a lot of rain resulted in only 64 raptors being tallied. Most notable was a Peregrine Falcon.

A Sharpie drying it’s wings

September 24th: Ed and Steve filled in for the count resulting in another record-breaking Broad-winged Hawk count, with 169 birds recorded. Red-tailed Hawks had a rather early push, with 50 birds recorded. This is nearly 3 times the previous September high for Red-taileds (18 on September 22nd, 2018). 66 Turkey Vultures was one of the better days this season.

September 25th: The day was among those that had the strongest sustained winds for the season (~15 mph). This resulted in fewer raptors, but amazing views of them low. 141 birds of 9 species were recorded. Northern Harrier (6) and Peregrine Falcon (4) had new seasonal highs at the time. Twenty-two Kestrels was another very strong day for them.

September 26th: The best day of the season so far in nearly all aspects. 711 raptors of 11 species were the highest number and diversity so far this season. Broad-winged Hawks was perhaps the star of the day, with another record-breaking count of 252 birds. At one point there was 118 birds in two connecting kettles that quickly disappeared into the low clouds. From the start of the count Vultures and Broad-wingeds would briefly kettle up far in the east (blown by the moderately strong west winds) and then stream south. This continued throughout most of the day, especially with Vultures. In fact, all but two of the new seasonal high count of 121 Turkey Vultures crossed the straits today. Northern Harrier (7) and Peregrine Falcon (5) had their best day of the season, while Osprey (3) had their 2nd best day. Bald Eagles (38) had their best count in nearly two weeks. The third Red-shouldered Hawk of the season was recorded as well. In addition to raptors, 188 Canada Goose, 376 Sandhill Cranes, and 745 Monarchs were recorded. It was a day for everything, and it was nice to be able to experience it with our largest group of people this season. Thanks to everyone with their help spotting and counting!

A fairly common scene on the 26th, with Broad-winged Hawks ‘kettling’ and Sandhill Cranes moving south

Non-raptors: Highlights have included an increase in waterfowl, including Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, American Black Duck, Redhead, Scaup, and Red-breasted Mergansers, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plovers, a peak of 18 Common Loons, a peak of 94 Blue Jays, a peak of 19 American Crows, a peak of 62 American Pipits, Savannah Sparrows, a peak of 69 American Goldfinches, and Common Grackles. Canada Goose had their best day on the 23rd, with 826 birds. Sandhill Cranes peaked (during the period) on the 26th, with 376 individuals.

Monarchs: Monarchs have continued to remain in excellent numbers. Most notable were 1,011 on the 23rd, 745 on the 26th, and 512 on the 20th.

Best of the next 5 days: It looks like we’ll be in for some excellent days in the very near future, as well as beyond that. All forecasts currently point to Saturday as being the best day during the period, probably one of the best days of the season, and possibly the best day of the season. The set-up for this is rather nice as it should rain throughout the afternoon on Friday, and then 2, possibly 3, days of rain/thunderstorms on Sunday, Monday, and possibly Tuesday. Saturday has the ideal moderate northerly winds, a drop in temperature to start the day (though no longer as steep as originally predicted), and partly cloudy skies. Sunday should be excellent as well, and there is a small, but decent chance that this could be the better day. The drop in temperature is more significant, as is the high for the day, but some forecasts are predicting strong easterly winds, picking up around noon. Each time I look at Sunday’s forecast though, the northerly winds from Saturday extend further and further into Sunday, suggesting there’s a chance they will extend into Sunday much later than currently predicted; thus, the chance Sunday could possibly be better. Monday and Tuesday have consistently shown Thunderstorms for these days, so little should move on these days. Wednesday shows less and less chance of rain each time I look at it, currently having a 25-35% chance of rain. If it doesn’t end up raining, Wednesday could be the best day of the period, as it follows two days of rainy weather, has northerly winds throughout the day, and has lower temperatures to start as well as a lower high for the day. Regardless of which day (Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday), there should be hundreds to possibly over 1,000 raptors moving each day, along with hundreds to thousands of Geese and Cranes during the period. Beyond that, Thursday and Friday both are predicted to have northerly winds, colder weather, no rain, and currently look like amazing days as well. After having a lack of most of day/all-day northerly winds since September 4th (and what will be 24 days ago), we are now (potentially) in for a plethora of them during the absolute best time for overall numbers and diversity. We have already been having amazing days without northerly winds, and multiple 1,000+ raptor days may be headed our way over the next 8 days.

It’s usually hard to predict what numbers of each raptor species will show up, and perhaps even foolish to do so, but they’re fun to do. So, assuming the forecast remains true for Saturday here are some attempts at predicting numbers and should only be used as general guidelines, not set in stone.

Turkey Vulture: 200-800, Osprey: a few, Bald Eagle: arguably the biggest unknown, but perhaps 10-50 birds, Northern Harrier: 4-12, Sharp-shinned Hawk: 200-500, Cooper’s Hawk: a few, Northern Goshawk/Rough-legged Hawk/Golden Eagle: 1 or 2 birds of each is possible, but hard to say which of the 3 species will come through, Red-shouldered Hawk: 3-15, Broad-winged Hawk: 30-250, Red-tailed Hawk: 40-250, American Kestrel: 10-40, Merlin: several, Peregrine Falcon: 5-15, Canada Goose: 500-2,500, Sandhill Crane: 500-3,000