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Big Push After Storm

September 27, 2011

By Rafael A. Gálvez

Ospreys were on the move, and there was no cessation of Merlins and Peregrines. Kestrels and Harriers are finally showing up, and we are just beginning to see what Broad-wings can do. Kites continued moving through in low numbers. Swallows didn’t hold back, and passerines exhibited a mini-fallout on Curry Hammock’s Thatch Palm Forest Trail.

It was a bit of a crazy day. Maybe the numbers should just speak for themselves. Rudy and I had raptors appearing and disappearing from massive overhead clouds, hour after hour. Many birds were at the limit of binocular identification, giving us only a brief chance before they cleared a small window of visibility between their entry point and the north side roof. We had to constantly run back to the south side deck – running through the bath house – to catch the birds before they submerged into other clouds or glided off at great speeds.

Our total of 310 birds included:

Osprey – 95
Mississippi Kite – 2
Swallow-tailed Kite – 3
Northern Harrier – 17
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 3
Cooper’s Hawk – 5
Broad-winged Hawk – 50
American Kestrel – 21
Merlin – 36
Peregrine Falcon – 75
Unidentifiable Accipiter – 2

It was great to finally see Kestrels show up, but having them in the mix with enough Merlins and plenty of Peregrines at such altitudes made it certainly challenging.

Today we saw Merlins attack just about everyone – a Cooper’s Hawk, a Peregrine, a Turkey Vulture, each other, a Northern Harrier and Ospreys. It is fun to watch them upset Peregrines, which in turn make them flee with a quick rebuttal. Time and again I have noticed Peregrines and Northern Harriers be intolerant of each other, plunging at one another in mid air, and going at it for some time. We also witnessed such a scene, but with an added Merlin – 3 way scrap!

Today we saw nothing like yesterdays stormy weather. It rained the night through until 7:15 am, at which point I arrived to Curry Hammock’s Thatch Palm Forest, on the gulf side. At first hike, the hammock seemed quiet, but birds were soon evident. Sightings include:
Black-throated Blue
Hooded (at least 4)
Cape May
Swainson’s Warblers
Northern Waterthrush
Red-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo
Veery (various)
Swainson’s Thrush (various)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Dickcissel (at least 2)

One of the most interesting details was watching a male Hooded Warbler catch a small Brown Anole, of about an inch in length, and swallow it whole. I have never seen such behavior before.

Counters today were Rudy Brancel and Rafael Galvez.

The winds today were out of the ESE at no more than 7 km/h, but dropping to 3 by the final hours. The heat was about 92F in the afternoon, making it a steamy day. Tomorrow we are expecting winds out of the NNE at 16 km/h, with thunderstorms possible. It will be quite a different hawkwatching day.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Susan Sorensen permalink
    September 27, 2011 10:18 pm

    What a busy day for you all!! Those clouds were challenging no doubt; glad you made that statement about the merlins dive-bombing all their larger brethen. I saw this occur over Long Key today with a merlin diving on a turkey vulture, and thought for certain I must not have had enough coffee. Feisty little featherballs aren’t they!

  2. September 27, 2011 11:52 pm

    Man, save some for me!!! Be there next week.


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