Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hawk Watch! - 14 Sep 2013

With the Hawk Festival at Lake Erie Metropark just a week away I headed down to the boat launch to watch hawks this morning. A good gathering of people showed up with the hopes of seeing a good movement of Broad-winged Hawks fly over the site today.

Weather was clear and winds were favorable for a southward migration of the raptors, who's numbers were building for a (potentially) big flight in the next several days.

If you look at the 30 year data for the Detroit River Hawk Watch you'll see that Broad-winged Hawks outnumber all other raptors this time of year. When conditions are favorable a day-count of 100,000+ birds is possible! This usually happens within 3-4 days of the 17th of September.

At approximately 10 am, after the first hour or two of really slow flight several large kettles of Broad-wings started forming over Canada. Within minutes the birds started streaming north and passed overhead. Unfortunately the birds were high enough in the blue skies that naked eye viewing was next to impossible. I managed to to get the scope on one kettle, and digiscoped this short video.

As I was leaving I ran into Pierre-Paul Bitton, a doctoral candidate from the University of Windsor and teacher at the University of Michigan, who happened to overhear my conversation with Mark Wloch regarding hummingbird feather staining. Pierre is currently researching iridescent coloration in birds, so we had a nice conversation regarding some work I've been doing w/r to Ruby-throated Hummingbird gorget coloration. While we chatted a beautiful (juvenile) Red-tailed Hawk soared overhead and allowed some nice photos. With the sun directly behind it the bird looked ghostly-white and had several of us thinking for a few minutes that it might be a Harlan's Hawk. But it was just a very light juvenile.

I would leave shortly afterward, and the day would end up being fairly successful. But the 'big' flight never materialized. A summary of the day's count can be found at HawkCount.

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