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High Overhead Flights

September 29, 2011

By Rafael A. Gálvez

Another neck-breaking day at FKH. The NNE winds brought the birds directly over us. Judging from the cirrus clouds overhead and their streaming formations along the same direction, high altitude tail-winds were pushing harder than at the surface level, keeping migrants satisfied at high elevations. Birds were often seen streaming in and out of cumulus clouds at high velocities, or kettling within them and barely visible. It was a hard-working day but it certainly paid off.

Our 496 total included:

Osprey – 24
Mississippi Kite – 3
Northern Harrier – 4
Bald Eagle – 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 49
Cooper’s Hawk – 21
Broad-winged Hawk -249
Red-shouldered Hawk – 3
American Kestrel – 59
Merlin – 4
Peregrine Falcon – 79

Peregrines are holding steady and Kestrels are on the rise, but it is preoccupying to see Merlins suddenly dip. As I’ve mentioned before, the fast-changing topography of Curry Hammock State Park, and the explosive growth of surrounding Buttonwoods often appear to conceal the preferred trajectory of migrating Merlins. We will keep vigilant for this species. Our totals for Merlin last year was simply awful – we don’t want a repeat.

Today was Julie Reagan’s last day with us. We are very grateful for her contributions and we hope she comes back soon to spend some time at the hawkwatch. We also had the pleasure of a visit by Denise Fortier, who came down from Deerfield Beach and spent the morning with us. Bob and Suzanne Becker also dropped by.

The image above is a composite of three photos taken by Julie of an American Kestrel diving on a Cooper’s Hawk.

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