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Falcon Flights – and Tons of Passerines!

October 18, 2011

By Rafael A. Gálvez

We were thrilled that the rain finally took a break this day, and did not interfere with our monitoring efforts. However, all through the Middle Keys, flooded lots, fields and structures are evident as result of the tremendous amount of rainfall over the last days.

It might have not been rainy, but today’s strong winds out of the east with gusts up to 20+ km/h were not optimal migration conditions. As a result, it turned out to be primarily a falcon day.

Our total of 155 birds included:

Osprey – 5
Northern Harrier – 6
Cooper’s Hawk – 1
American Kestrel – 67
Merlin – 9
Peregrine Falcon – 67

Other raptors observed:
Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen in the vicinity, but were not exhibiting migratory behavior.
Short-tailed Hawks were seen just south of FKH, in Marathon.
Broad-winged Hawks were seen perched on wires and within the forest at Curry Hammock State Park, but were not engaged in migration.
Turkey Vultures were also in the vicinity.

After a few frustrating days of excellent migration reports north and south of us, and an incredibly wet afternoon watching crazy birds like Bay-breasted and Blackburnian Warblers alongside Rose-breasted Grosbeak while getting drenched in a flooded parking lot, the rain finally seized. According to some reports, no less than 11″ of rain fell yesterday in the Middle Keys. Like a child on Christmas morning, I awoke before sunrise to look out the window as the last droplets dissipated. I drove out to Crane Point Hammock in Marathon to encounter the type of passerine event I’d only dared hope for. The very first tree I looked at – a large Gumbo Limbo – was just “covered” with warblers, primarily Tennessee, but there was absolutely no lack of Black-throated Blue, Redstarts and many other species! Here is a summary of what I saw:

Eastern Wood-Pewee (2)
Eastern Kingbird (4)
Scissor-tailed Flycather (3)
Red-eyed Vireo (few)
White-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo (5)
Veery (1)
Swainson’s Thrush (20)
Gray-cheecked Thrush (5)
Gray Catbird (20)
Northern Parula (5)
Tennessee Warbler (50+)
Chestnut-sided Warbler (1)
Magnolia Warbler (5)
Cape May Warbler (10)
Black-throated Blue Warbler (50+)
Blackburnian Warbler (1)
Black-throated Green Warbler (1)
Prairie Warbler (10)
Palm Warbler (100’s)
Bay-breasted Warbler (3)
Yellow-throated Warbler (1)
Worm-eating Warbler (1)
Black-and-white Warbler (5)
American Redstart (50+)
Ovenbird (50+)
Northern Waterthrush (5)
Louisiana Waterthrush (2)
Common Yellowthroat (50+)
Summer Tanager (1)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (10)
Indigo Bunting (30)
Dickcissel (1)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo – countless – I was spooking them left and right as I walked through the hammock. On the drive back north towards the marine lab in the afternoon, I noticed about a dozen dead YBCU on the road, while a couple more dared cross my path in rushed flight.

The mangrove path through Crane Point was covered with Black-throated Blues, Redstarts, Ovenbirds and Yellowthroats on the ground – countless – daintily feeding on the flooded ground. The flats on the bay had a dozen Redstarts hopping and twirling over the tidal wrack, on a feeding frenzy for sand flees.

Unfortunately, I had to cut the birding short – I had a hawkwatch to attend. Let us hope tomorrow morning is a repeat – as of now (9:48pm) it is drizzling outside.

One Comment leave one →
  1. katie permalink
    October 19, 2011 8:48 am

    Soon this rain will pass and you will have more birds than you can count. Expect a run of warblers , a few hummingbirds and more hawks that any one man could count. hope to get down there in next week or so. Im going trough hawk withdrawel after seeing one lone Peregrine at the beach when running mu dog. AHHHH !!!! I NEED more birds !! Miss you all.

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