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Mississippi Kites, Ospreys, and Plenty of Peregrines

September 23, 2011

Our best day at the hawkwatch this season yet.

With a total of 217 birds of 9 species, we finally got a feel for what the season may hold. We had several excellent eyes on the skies today. The counters throughout the day included Jim Eager, Jeff Bouton, Rudy Brancel, Samantha Sardes, Christine Vaskovis, Rafael Galvez, and many visitors.

Ospreys were once again on the move; we upped our total of yesterday by two with 45 birds. Merlins were in no shortage throughout the day with 25 birds. Peregrines are really starting to push now – our total of 89 birds can attest to that.

One of the most exciting aspects of the day was watching Mississippi Kites move by. Although our total of 12 birds pales in comparison to numbers seen in Texas or Mexico, it was significant at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch – it beat the daily count of 10 birds from 2007 to establish a new MIKI high for the site.

Here is what we saw:

Osprey – 45
Mississippi Kite – 12
Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
Northern Harrier – 5
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3
Cooper’s Hawk – 9
Broad-winged Hawk – 28
Merlin – 25
Peregrine Falcon – 89
Total – 217

The weather was noticeably different from the last couple of days, with winds at no more than 2km/h from the SE. Understandably, our flight patterns were very different. We had plenty of birds moving far inland, but as the afternoon set on, most of the flights were directly overhead at very high altitudes. Just when we thought we might be closing shop in a whimper, birds started picking up again on the final hour – we wound up staying an extra hour of count. We managed to pick up 26 additional Peregrines and 16 Merlins during that period, not to mention the last MIKI and most of the Harriers.

Although passerine migration seems to have slowed a bit, new species were present. The first Palm Warblers are being heard, several Black-throated Blues we seen moving through, Worm-eating and Cape May on the move, and several Bobolinks in the morning. The swallow flights picked up big time, and we had thousands moving throughout the day with Purple Martin, Barn, Cliff, N. Rough-winged, and Bank Swallows present. Caves are still missing in action.

Piping Plovers have been seen at the shore early in the morning, in addition to the typical shore denizens this time of the year. A nice sighting was a flock of some dozen Lesser Yellowlegs. About 100 Blue-winged Teal were also seen flying out eastward towards the ocean.

With the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival coming to Curry Hammock Park on Saturday, we expect many visitors and – hopefully – big flights. Regardless, we will be having fun. We have several workshops and just a lot of fun planned out.

See you at Curry Hammock!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Susan Sorensen permalink
    September 24, 2011 9:51 pm

    Sounds like you had a stellar day! The Tortugas had no shortage of Merlins, that’s for sure! Frigates loaded Bush Key, a Loggerhead Shrike took up resting in a tree for a couple hours, a few swallows were still lollygagging around, and a Ruddy Turnstone convention was in progress along the shoreline. Enormous flock of Gannets on the move, and still a few Brown Booby’s hanging around Marker 7. Good bird day all around!

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