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Friday, September 28, 2012

Finch Feast

Right now we have lots of young American Goldfinches and we also have Purple Finches, here they are at our feeder, feasting. Goldfinches like to feed as a group and their favorite foods are sunflower and thistle (Nyjer) seeds. Tip: provide feeders with plenty of restaurant seating and you'll keep the finches.
TGIF, have a great weekend, fill your feeders, and enjoy the birds!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sharp-shinned Hawks and more, are still migrating!

Sharp-shinned Hawk, juv.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, juv. sitting near our bird feeders.

Here's a photo of some Sharp-shinned Hawks near our bird feeders yesterday, and this morning. Sharpies are still migrating, and so are many other species of hawk. Broad-winged Hawks are still being seen in New England, but the majority have gone by and will be seen over hawk watch sites south of here.
Sharpshins (and their larger relative, Cooper's Hawks) eat other birds, so they can migrate and make frequent stops for a snack.
Keep watching for hawks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Broad-wingd Hawk migration video

Click on arrow to view Broad-winged Hawk video

Yesterday we saw 2,618 raptors, most of them Broad-winged Hawks, migrate past Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory, in southern NH, it was awesome! To give you a little taste of what it is like to see Broad-winged Hawks circling in a rising thermal then peel off and glide, I took this video while we were watching one of the "kettles" (rising groups) of Broad-winged Hawks yesterday late in the day. This is only part of the kettle, which had over 180 birds in it. In the background, official hawk counter for the day, Ian MacCleod, and Don, are heard describing how we count migrating Broadwings. (Note, to view this video again, not the other youtube videos, hit the left most reverse arrow symbol, in the video bar). Broad-winged Hawks soar up on rising thermals of hot air, then glide to the next thermal, as an energy efficient method of getting to their wintering grounds in Central and South America.

Here's a close-up of a Broad-winged Hawk, adult.

Here's part of a "kettle" of Broadwings rising on a thermal. Some of the kettles had over 150 birds in them.

It was fabulous to see so many migrating hawks, we're happy birders!

Julie Brown (monitoring site coordinator for the Hawk Migration Association of North America) and daughter, Laurel, were spotting the hawks.

On Saturday, Henry Walters, one of the official counters for NH Audubon's Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory, release a rehabilitated Broad-winged Hawk at Pack. The enthusiastic crowd was thrilled to see a Broadwing close-up.

Many of these hawks will be passing hawk migration sites south of NH, so get out and look, you might become addicted to hawk watching, like we are! Support your local hawk watch and also become a member of the Hawk Migration Association of North America.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

2,507 Hawks over Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory, NH, yesterday

Large group of soaring Broad-winged Hawks rising in a thermal.

Adult Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk, juv. soaring over the mountain.

The Broad-winged Hawks were moving yesterday and we saw 2,507 total raptors (2,401 of them Broadwings) over Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory in NH. Most of the Broad-winged Hawk movement occurred before noon, while there were still good thermals to soar on. In the afternoon, the temps rose and thermal activity dropped and we saw less Broadwings, who need to migrate using rising thermals of warm air. Another highlight was 14 migrating Bald Eagles. There is still more migration to come. Last year a daily record was set on 9/18 when 5,290 migrating raptors flew over Pack. This weekends's weather looks good to produce the kind of weather Broadwings like to migrate on, with northwest winds and cooler temps. On Saturday there will be a NH Audubon event with release of a rehabilitated hawk. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hawks are flying and many more to come in New England.

Sharp-shinned Hawk, juv.

Broad-winged Hawk, juv.

Broad-winged Hawk, adult, backlit by sun yesterday

Yesterday, there were 508 raptors seen over Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory in NH, where we and other avid hawk watchers were. 459 of the raptors seen were Broad-winged Hawks, the most abundant migrant this time of year. Also seen were 4 Bald Eagles, 21 Sharp-shinned Hawks and a few other raptor species. Lots more hawks are to come, so keep watching!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hawks Are Migrating in New England Now!

Sharp-shinned Hawk I photographed yesterday

Same Sharp-shinned Hawk from a different angle. 

It's hawk migration time in New England and they're flying now over Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory in NH, where we were yesterday. They'll be hawks today, even though the strong NW winds may be a little too much for thermals, (which Broad-winged Hawks need to migrate) to be to stable. Tomorrow looks like very good weather conditions for hawk migration with clear skies and mild NW winds. So get yourself out to a Hawk watch site, that's where we will be.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Hawk Migration Is Starting, How To ID hawks

Broad-winged Hawk, an abundant migrant

Broadwings migrate in large groups (called "kettles") rising up on thermals.

The hawks are coming! The hawks are coming! We're entering prime hawk migration time for birders in the northern and eastern half of the U.S. Look for a high pressure weather front with northerly, mild winds, that's the conditions hawks need to migrate and next week looks like it will have some good weather for migration. Some hawks, such as Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Merlins and American Kestrels, often fly singly and move under a variety of conditions, but Broad-winged Hawks, an abundant migrant, go in groups and migrate by using rising thermals. Most of the northeast hawk-watch sites are gearing up to count the numbers of migrants and report the statistics to the Hawk MIgration Association of North America website. On their website, you can join this organization, keep track of the number of migrants, and also find a hawk watching site near you.

Here are some tips for watching hawks:

1. Prime Broad-winged Hawk migration in the North is Sept. 11 to 25, in the South (TX) it is Sept. 25th to Oct. 10.

2. Prime Sharp-shinned Hawk migration in the Northeast is Sept. 1 to Oct. 10, in the Mid-Atlantic States it is Sept. 10 to Oct. 20, in the West it is Sept. 11 to Oct. 31.

3. Hawks usually move most under sunny skies with mild northwest, north or northeast winds. Broad-winged Hawks require thermals to move.

4. Go hawk-watching at one of the many "official" hawk-watch sites. Or find your own by going to a hill, mountain, or tall structure available to you that has good views to the north, because that is the direction the hawks are coming from.

5. Bring binoculars that are at 8 power, or even 10 power if you have them. Scan slowly back and forth across the sky at different heights to find the hawks. Most hawks will be fairly far away and some may look like specs. Learn hawk shapes at a distance to identify them.

6. Here's a brief look at the most common hawks you will see:

Broad-winged Hawk, adult

Broad-winged Hawk, juvenile

* Broad-winged Hawks. These are medium-sized hawks, 16" long, with broad wings, and soar together in groups. Look for the broad black-and-white tail bands seen on the adults, usually visible even at a distance. Juvenile Broad-winged Hawks have thin tail bands and dark streaking that is usually heaviest on the sides of the breast.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

* Sharp-shinned Hawks. These are small, about Blue Jay-sized, 12" long, hawks in the accipiter group. They migrate mostly singly with flap-flap-flap glide flight and have short rounded wings and a somewhat long tail that has a squared end.

Cooper's Hawk

* Cooper's Hawks. These are extremely similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, and are a tricky ID challenge, but are somewhat larger, 17" long, with a longer, rounded tail and larger, longer head and similar flight pattern.

American Kestrel

* American Kestrels. These are a type of falcon. They are smaller than a Sharp-shinned Hawk, about 10 1/2" long, with pointed wings and a long tail and fly mainly with continuous flapping.


* Merlins. Very similar to a Kestrel but darker and larger, about 12" long. Has broad, pointed wings and a somewhat shorter tail than a Kestrel. Flies swiftly and strongly. See yesterday's blog entry for details on Merlin vs. Kestrel ID.

Turkey Vulture

* Turkey Vultures. Very large, about 27" long, all black birds that constantly soar with their wings held in a V.

7. Keep track of your numbers and turn them in to your local bird or hawk-watching organization.

For more on how to identify hawks, see our new best-seller, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America which has fantastic multiple photos of all the hawks, including them in flight.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

1,026 Common Nighthawks seen on migration last night!

Common Nighthawk

we saw 1,026 last night!

flew by continuously

this is what it looked like through binos, most flying by at a distance

Flying down the river in front of the mountain

view from our deck

we kept counting into dusk

Wow!!! That's all we can say. We had a mega number of Common Nighthawks migrating past our property last night, as we sat on our deck and counted. It started out looking promising as several small groups of nighthawks went by at 5 pm. It just had the right "feel" for a promising nighthawk migration evening. Dragonflies were plentiful in the air, handfuls of Barn Swallows were up there with them. These are both insect eaters, just like nighthawks. Best of all, we saw flying ants dispersing. Nighthawks love these and eat them on migration.

From 5 pm to 5:30 pm, we counted 40 birds. You never know what will come next, so you just keep scanning the sky and try for patience. From 5:30 until 6 pm we saw no birds. We were quickly eating dinner outside on the deck, one person always watching while the other person brought out the food. 19 more nighthawks flew by between 6 to 6:30 pm.  Then, at 7 pm Don yells, Nighthawks!!! We got on the lead birds and just kept our binoculars trained, as a large, continuous stream of nighthawks flew by. A silent phalanx of flapping birds, all following the same path, rather high in the sky, heading south. You just keep counting, not breathing. You count by ones, as they fly by slowly enough for you to be able to do this. I lost a sense of time and suddenly, I was at 514, and they just kept coming...515, 516, 517.......and on and on. The sky was deepening in dusk and still they kept coming. Finally at 7:30 pm most had passed. We still stayed out until 7:45 and saw 2 more. It was too dark to see. Final number 1,026 Common Nighthawks.Wow!!

To put this in perspective, this was the second biggest night we had ever had from our site, where we have been counting nighthawks for at least 8 years. We live on a dammed-up section of a river and nighthawks traditionally follow river valleys for migration, possibly because they are rich with insects, and nighthawks feed while on migration. There is a nighthawk migration count website where numbers are recorded, called the SuAsCo/Nashua Rivers & Beyond Nighthawk Survey. It covers the main river watersheds in the lower part of NH and upper two-thirds of MA. If you count nighthawks in this area, record your numbers at this website. Our number of 1,026 Common Nighthawks, was the largest number recorded from a single site in a single night during this season so far, according to that website.
We usually get good nighthawk migration at our site, great some years, others not so. Our last big day, and record, occurred 8/27/05, when we saw 1,058 Common Nighthawks, most flying by in a continuous stream (just like these did) between 6:30 to 7:30 pm. Only thing is, strangely they were all headed north, while ours last night were headed south.
Common Nighthawk numbers have been declining in the Northeast. The purpose of the SuAsCo/Nashua Rivers & Beyond Nighthawk Survey is to count and record the annual fluctuations of migrating nighthawks in a defined area over time and create a longitudinal data set that might contribute to research on the long-term decline in abundance of this species.
Some days are good birding, others are great. This was one of them!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hummingbird Migration Still Going On

Hummingbird migration is still happening, yeah, we still get to see some hummingbirds. Here are some photos of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds I recently took on our property. These are most likely young birds. Juvenile hummingbirds of both sexes look like the adult female, but they often have paler edges to their crown feathers, making them look minutely scaled.
Keep your feeders up, cleaned and refilled.
Next year plant some red, tubular flowers. These are feeding on Lady in Red Salvia, a great hummer plant.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Fall Warbler ID Quiz answers

Mystery Warbler 1 is a Pine Warbler

Mystery Warbler 2 is a Yellow-rumped Warbler

Mystery Warbler 3 is a Black-throated Green Warbler

Yesterday we posted a quiz of these fall warblers that we saw yesterday on our property in southwest NH. Above are the answers. Good for all of you who guessed. The first person to get the right answers was Jim Royer of Los Osos, CA. Congratulations to Jim, especially since these warblers are more usual in the East, not CA (except for Yellow-rumped Warbler, but we have the eastern subspecies in the East, he sees the western subspecies in CA.)

The first mystery warbler is a Pine Warbler in very dull plumage, most likely a 1st yr. female. Looks very like the photo in our The Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America, page 618. This bird has none of the yellow coloring so prominent on the breast and head of the adult male and on the breast of the adult female. This bird could be confused with the similar winter Blackpoll Warbler which has a streaked back, neck color not extending around dark ear patch, white tips to primaries, brighter white wingbars, pale yellow or pinkish legs with bright yellow soles of feet, tail extending less beyond undertail coverts. Also you must rule out the winter Bay-breasted Warbler which often has a hint of pale chestnut on flanks, some back streaking, buffy undertail coverts and dark legs.

The second bird is a very molting looking Yellow-rumped Warbler, which looks more orangish yellowish on the sides on this individual. Typically they have yellow on the sides, a good clue even when you cannot see the yellow rump. Very pale fall Yellow-rumps, usually first year females, may even lack the yellow on the sides. The similar winter Palm Warbler has a yellowish rump but bright yellow undertail coverts and pumps its tail. Similar winter Magnolia Warbler has yellow rump but is yellow below, similar winter Cape May Warbler has greenish-yellow rump.

The third warbler gives a little more color to help identify it, although, this is more typically the kind of look we get at warblers, a bird hidden behind foliage! The yellow face is noticeable and there are hints of black on the throat and sides of upper chest and noticeable black streaks on the sides. In winter, Black-throated Green males can have their black throat veiled with white, so the black is not as dramatic as in summer. The female has even more white on the throat, and blurry side streaks. First winter birds are even paler. I like the way the yellow on the vent is obvious in this photo, all ages and sexes of Black-throated green have this yellow there, a good clue.

Fall warbler migration is just beginning. To learn more about warblers, see our new best-seller, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America and look closely at the warbler section which shows  all the fall plumages of the warblers.