Hawk Count-September 11th Through 14th

Raptors: Raptors were slow until today, but not nearly as slow as anticipated, due in large part to significantly different weather than predicted. We are starting to get into the peak period, where raptors could move no matter what (apart from rain). That surely was the case today, when they significantly picked up, and the 1,000th raptor of the season was tallied. It didn’t take much to reach that today, as we only needed 4 birds, but we tallied well beyond 4 birds. Raptors went from slow to peak numbers in just a day, without any gradual buildup. Winds were supposed to be sustained 20 mph from the west, gusting to 25 mph all day, and we only had 18 mph sustained for the first hour, and then averaging 11 mph sustained the rest of the day. The clouds broke up and the raptors burst loose, especially Sharpies. A remarkable 214 were tallied today! This is higher than the seasonal peak number recorded last year (204 on October 2nd), as well as the seasonal peak number in 2017 (213 on September 25th). Tallying this many 11 days before the earliest previous peak, suggests we are in for some even bigger days in the days/weeks to come. Incredibly, we are still behind last year’s pace for Sharpies at this point in the season. At this date last year, the season had 131 more Sharpies tallied than we have this season.

The past few seasons the peak period for raptors has roughly been September 20th to October 31st, with September 10th to 20th also very good. A potential trend has also supported this the past two seasons. Starting from the day after the 1,000th raptor was tallied, the next 6 weeks averaged ~1,300 raptors/week. In 2017, the 1,000th raptor was tallied on September 22nd. The next 6 weeks (September 23rd to November 3rd) averaged 1,272 raptors/week. In 2018, the 1,000th raptor was tallied on September 10th. The next 6 weeks (September 11th to October 22nd) averaged 1,302 raptors/week. In each of these seasons, the only week (of the 6) that didn’t tally at least 1,000 raptors/week was the first week following the 1,000th raptor tallied, where the first week in 2017 tallied 948 raptors, and the first week in 2018 tallied 930 raptors. It’s remarkable how similar these seasons were in this aspect.

Another somewhat surprising thing is that despite averaging 1,300 raptors/week during this peak period, not every day, or even 90%+ tallies 100+ raptors. It should be around 185 raptors/day for 6 weeks if all was evened out, but there are unfavorable weather conditions and peak pulses that reduce the number of 100+ days. With peak days within this peak and bad weather days one would still think at least 80% of all days would tally 100+ raptors/day, but that still is not the case. However, a respectable 2 out of 3 days tallies 100+ raptors during this 6 week period. Once again there are remarkable similarities between the two seasons in this aspect. In 2017, during this 6 week period, 27 out of 42 days tallied 100+ raptors for a percentage of 64% of days tallying 100+ raptors during this 6 week period. In 2018, 28 out of 42 days tallied 100+ raptors for a percentage of 67% of days tallying 100+ raptors during this 6 week period. It’ll be interesting to see if this season has similar results.

An American Kestrel caught two snakes on the 12th
American Kestrel

September 11th: Twenty-seven Sharpies and 2 Merlin were the most notable of the 43 raptors tallied.

September 12th: American Kestrels had their best day at the time, with 6 birds. Thirty Sharpies and 8 additional raptor species were the most notable of the 71 raptors tallied.

September 13th: Twenty-five raptors were tallied comprised of Northern Harrier (2), Sharp-shinned Hawk (18), American Kestrel (4), and unknown falcon (1).

September 14th: The best day of the season so far, with the first double-digit (countable) raptor species day (10) and 365 individuals. Nearly 200 more Sharpies were tallied than just the day before, and the 214 tallied today was significantly more than the previous peak this season of 39 birds. American Kestrels had a very strong day, with 20 tallied and a new seasonal peak. Bald Eagles and Turkey Vultures had their 2nd best days of the season, with 51 and 63 birds respectively. Five Harriers tied their seasonal peak of 5 individuals. The 2nd Peregrine Falcon of the season flew by as well.

One of today’s (September 14th) migrant Osprey

Non-raptors: American Goldfinch, Canada Goose, and Cedar Waxwings have started to pick up some. Goldfinches have been in the 40s most days and Cedar Waxwings increased to 48 on the 12th. Eighty-six geese flew by on the 12th, the most so far this season. There have been two Sandhill Cranes in the immediate area since the start of the count and it looks like they took off today, as two headed out south over the straits, rather low. The first American Golden-Plover of the season flew by on the 13th. Other highlights include daily Common Loons, Red-necked Grebes, and a lone Rock Pigeon.

Monarchs: 56 on the 11th was the most during the period.

Best of the next 5 days: There is a chance of rain tomorrow and Thursday. Otherwise, the weather looks very similar and it’s hard to know which day will produce the most raptors. All days should be very good. Although Broad-winged Hawks don’t move in huge numbers through Pointe LaBarbe, the best numbers so far this season are likely to occur during the next 5 days.