Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
HawkWatches Are Still Happening
October 10, 2020
By Steve Grinley
A few weeks ago I talked about the fall hawk migration, and it is still going on at hawkwatch sites in eastern New England. The same day that my column appeared, Levi Burford witnessed an amazing day at Pack Monadnock in New Hampshire. Levi, the official counter for the site, counted 2269 raptors, 2195 of which were broad-winged hawks! This is what he wrote about the day:
“Forty-three visitors came by the hawk watch and I think many got to witness the spectacle of Broad-winged Hawk migration. It’s nice to share this with good folks!
“As we baked for much of the morning and early afternoon I wondered where the Broad-winged Hawks were. We had some small numbers in kettles and I was resigned to a “nice” pleasant day counting leisurely. Then, at ten minutes of 3:00, a monster kettle unloaded upon the mountain.
“The stream of Broadwings snaked from one side of the mountain to the other, breaking apart to become pulses for three hours. The final Broad-wings finished scudding by just before 6:00 but small numbers of Sharpies and a Kestrel kept us there until 6:45pm.”
“September 17th is special to this site. We’ve collected consistent data at this site since 2005 and only in 2005 did we get rained out from counting on this date due to low clouds. In the past 15 years of good weather on this date we have only had less than 100 Broad-winged Hawks twice. Today lived up to expectation that we would have a good flight. It’s almost scary, how predictable it is!”
That day seems hard to beat, you say? The following day, Levi experienced an even greater flight, totaling 3000 hawks. You can feel the enthusiasm in his report for that day:
“Forty-five visitors got treated to a show once the cloud deck lifted and dispersed. Thanks to site founder, Iain Macleod for helping me count today. That would have been a doosey without him.
“The day started off with hope of the thick cloud layer and light rain dissipating and counting thousands of hawks. By mid-day we were starting to get restless as we got word that Mount Watatic was having a good day, being just under the cloud deck. At a little past 1:00pm the clouds lifted and broke apart. The wind started to blow with regularity from the north and the temperature started to climb once again into the comfortable range.
“Whew! Another big day…Today really started in the 1:00 hour. The clouds lifted and there were Broad-wings flying low. It didn’t take long before the clouds dissipated and the solar energy gave the birds lift up to eye-level and then beyond. It got busy and the Broad-winged Hawks started to fly in massive semi-organized rivers.
“There was a slight lull for the 3:00 hour but in the 4:00 hour a new massive, unorganized front of Broad-winged Hawks gave us counters a run for our money! Anywhere you pointed your binoculars there were Broadwings, flying in formation. It was the most challenging day I’ve had yet for counting.
“By the way: I did not make up the numbers for today. It just happened to total 3000. I’ve double-checked. Now I’m less cranky about that Osprey that came at 6:43 forcing me to stay that last 15 minutes to 7:00pm. I could have left with 2,999!”
The hawk migration is still going on, though the peak was clearly mid-September. Though the numbers may be less, some of the more interesting raptors might be seen in October and into early November including Goshawks and Golden Eagles!
More information on Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory may be found at www.nhaudubon.org and for hawkwatch sites in Eastern Massachusetts go to www.massbird.org/EMHW.
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