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FKH 2012 Counters – THANK YOU!

December 3, 2012

By Rafael Galvez

The fall of 2012 was another exceptional count season at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, and this would not have been possible without the involvement and enthusiasm of a great group of counters and volunteers. Thank you for your participation!

Above, FKH October regulars in sync.
From left to right, Bob Stalnaker, Gabe Cenker, Ted Keyel, Rafael Galvez and Charles Caudill.

Colleen and Charles Caudill counted at the hawkwatch nearly daily from October 7 through October 27. This is their second year of extended volunteering at FKH. They are the nicest and most dedicated people you could ever hope for at a hawkwatch. They are fantastic at spotting raptors at a distance, and few birds slip by them unnoticed.

Colleen and Charles once again proved to be reliable through thick and thin; when we were swamped with birds and visitors they were a central part of the team, and when long days asked for call-outs a mile out over the glary ocean, they were persistent and enthusiastic. More importantly, they are great and thoughtful company and a lot of fun. We will miss them and cannot wait until they return for the 2013 season. Above top left, Charles is keeping look over the “backside;” above right, Colleen is scoping out distant raptors. Above, lower photo from left to right, Ted Keyel with Colleen and Charles.

For their second FKH season in a row, Dave, Jenn and Gabe Cenker participated at the hawkwatch for ten days during early October while they camped out at Curry Hammock State Park. However, Jenn and Gabe returned days later to witness the big Peregrine flights. The Cenkers are our favorite hawkwatching family, with young Gabe (age 9) at the heart of their enthusiasm and passion for raptors. All three are excellent spotters and lots of fun to be around. If you get Gabe talking about Peregrines and the migratory flyways, you will be impressed with his knowledge and love for raptors. Above, he is at the hawkwatch explaining to the Florida Keys Sunschoolers about migration, and how to use the anenometer. Gabe is also the founder of the Young Birders of Brevard, a group dedicated to showing kids how awesome birding can be. We could not be more grateful about having them share their passion and dedication with us. We’ll be sure to see them return to FKH next year.

Tedor Whitman has been such a great asset to FKH since 2011! Tedor has got to be – hands down – one of the most reliable counters ever. Storm or scorching sun, he has made it on time to FKH, each and every Monday morning, driving 2 hours from west Miami to the Middle Keys, ready to count and with the most enthusiastic attitude. We are all the happier when he is joined by Marguerite Hunt at the watch, and enjoy the mixture of downright serious and fun conversation with them. We love to hear about Tedor’s work at ZooMiami, and look forward to his increased participation in bird migration studies in South Florida. Above, top photo, Tedor and Marguerite at the “backside,” enjoying a quick break; above, bottom photo, Tedor gets serious when he spots a distant incoming raptor.

Bob Stalnaker has a great passion for raptors, the natural world and conservation. He first participated at FKH during 2011, and returned to stay with us 10 days this season. We are grateful for all his contributions, and the many impassioned conversations we shared. Bob is a Peregrine lover at heart, and we are proud it was one of his great photos that we used to announce the site’s seasonal world record for the species. I shared a number of memorable mornings doing Long Key State Park transect surveys with Bob. We hope to see him again soon at FKH and hope his plans with Florida raptors gain momentum. Above, left, Bob scanning the sky; to the right are two of his Peregrine Falcon photos taken this season.

Ruth and Carey Parks joined us for nearly a week, just in time for the big Peregrine flights and the seasonal world record. They had joined us for the 2011 season and it was great to spend more time with them and share some great migration moments. We also loved to learn more about their work with the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and the monitoring of Burrowing Owl burrows, and their adventures with the Caloosa Bird Club. We know they will remain great friends of the hawkwatch and can’t wait until they return.

Catie Welch spent nearly a week with us during early October, helping find birds during morning transect counts, counting at the hawkwatch and engaging with kids during incoming field trips. It was great to work with a young Floridian with a genuine interest in avian research, and with broad-ranging experience. We learned much about the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow and her field work with that imperiled species, and about her work guiding birding groups with regional organizations. Catie is a trouper, and helped us monitor migration during a week of challenging flights by very distant birds. Above, left, Catie helps a group of kids spot birds and fill-in forms; at right, she is monitoring the sky for distant migrants.

Allison Miller participated with us recently for 4 days. It was a great opportunity for us to learn more about the Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey in Apopka, Florida and all the great work she’s has been doing, flying rehabilitated raptors and engaging young people in educational programs. Although we were starting to get the first effects of hurricane Sandy when she spent time at the hawkwatch, she arrived right on time for the flights of American Kestrels. We wish Allison all the best as she finalizes her falconry training, and hope she returns to FKH for more hawkwatching. Above, Allison excelling at distant and close-up work with raptors. At left, Allison impressed us with her raptor ID skills despite us having mostly far migrants during her stay; at right, she is flying Archer, an immature Red-shouldered Hawk at the Avian Reconditioning Center.

Robert Qually participated at the hawkwatch several times this fall, often bringing rehabilitated raptors from the Marathon Wild Bird Center. While visitors to the hawkwatch may have many opportunities to see distant migrating raptors, a close encounter with a bird in the hand can make a huge difference in solidifying people’s appreciation for them. Robert brought Sweetie the “Cuban” American Kestrel, and Red (photo above), a gorgeous Red-shouldered Hawk. Although Robert volunteers at the Wild Bird Center, working with birds in the hand, it has been nice to see him sharpen up his identifications skill on distant birds, and to see him observe his “lifer” Swainson’s Hawk.

Ryan Mong was one of the best surprises this fall season. He came to us unannounced, as he rode his bike up and down the Florida peninsula and did impromptu primitive camping along the state’s natural areas. He paid us a lengthy visit during September, and went off to continue his adventures soon after. But it is apparent he could not stay away from raptor migration in the Keys. It was great to see him return for a prolonged period, just in time for the big Peregrine flights. We greatly benefited from Ryan’s help at the watch during most of October! We enjoyed his company and insightful conversations; he asks some of the best questions. It was sad to see him leave to continue his journeys, and we wish him the best of luck as he ventures to New Zealand. At the end of the season, as he returned to his home state, he texted me, “Back on the Oregon coast and I keep expecting to see a Frigatebird.” It’s tough to leave the Keys. Above, left, Ryan is holding Sweetie, the sparveriodes American Kestrel; at right he is finding that sweet spot for distant raptors moving high beyond the Atlantic coast – one of Ryan’s specialties.

Karen Riedle and Mary Butterfield returned this season to help us at the watch during the first days of October. They are certainly no strangers to FKH, and it was great to have them among us, helping out during a field trip of homeschoolers from the Keys, and spotting distant birds. Although their stay was a bit shorter than we might have wished, it was great to catch up with them and hear more about their contributions to education and conservation. Above left, Mary scanning along the bayside; at right, Karen helping kids spot birds.

Sue and Darrel Hartman counted with us from October 24 through 27, and it was a great pleasure to have them back at FKH for a second year. During 2011, Sue and Darrel were initiated into the project on our highest count day ever, October 20, when 3423 raptors (excluding vultures) migrated through the site. They once again drove down from Gainesville to join us. By contrast, during their visit this season, out daily raptor totals were below 3 digits. However, during their last day, October 27, we counted 401 American Kestrels! You never know what you will experience at the hawkwatch! The Hartmans are below, left, with Ted Keyel.

Holly and Myron Peterson were among the first folks to inquire about volunteering for the 2012 season, and were among the last standing at the watch through season’s end.  Holly and Myron (above, right) are arduous supporters of raptor migration sites in their home state of Minnesota, and sponsor the HawkCount pages of the West Skyline Hawk Count and Hawk Ridge sites. They counted with us for 8 days in November, and I am certain their experience in the Keys was quite different from Minnesota: Hundreds of Turkey Vultures graced the skies daily, along with many Broad-wings and Swainson’s Hawks; Short-tails were a presence over the site on a regular basis. We tremendously enjoyed their kindness and patience, and shared great conversations and many memorable birds. We hope to see them back soon!

Merlin Coopers SUNDERLAND

We were fortunate this season to have the help from many volunteers. I don’t want to forget to mention Captain Bob Lewis, from Crystal River, and Clifton Kahler from Polk County, who joined us the second week of October. Michelle Davis of the Cape Florida Banding Station, and a great friend joined us towards the end of October, taking precious time away from her hectic banding schedule; we much appreciated the help. It was also great to have Mariel and Angel Abreu help at the watch for a couple of days during big flights; they have helped promote the project successfully through the web. Mark Hedden and his wife Nancy, great supporters of the hawkwatch visited briefly, but have been important in ensuring the long-term life of this project. Mark has brought the support of Florida Keys Audubon Society, and it was a pleasure to have Elizabeth Ignoffo, president of the organization, visit the site. A big thanks to Kevan and Linda Sunderland, who always enliven the site during their visits and have contributed so many amazing photographs to the project. Above, two of their photographs, a Cooper’s Hawk at left, and a Merlin at right.

Jim Merlin MarkAbove, Jim Eager holds a Merlin brought up from the banding site by Mark Hedden, in the back

Jim Eager counted at FKH during the first month of this season. He has been involved with the hawkwatch since 2008, and the revival of this project would not have been possible without his efforts. Not only has he been an official counter on a daily basis, but he has helped transfer the project’s historical data into an electronic format, and was instrumental in bringing the Space Coast Audubon Society on board as a major sponsor for 2011/2012. Jim’s enthusiasm for this project has done volumes in bringing positive attention to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch across the state. He has been at the core of the project’s growth and we look forward to his future contributions.


Leica Trinovid FKH prop TEKE md

Above, top left, Ted Keyel, official FKH counter proves he is one of the kids;
top right, Ted shows his wingspan is bigger than a Frigatebird’s.

I counted at the hawkwatch the full season, from September 13 through November 11. Another counter dedicated the entire season to the preoject, and that was Ted Keyel, originally from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Ted’s broad-ranging experience, not only as a well-traveled birder, but as a hawk counter and research technician brought seriousness and fresh enthusiasm to the project. His previous work at the Montclair Hawk Watch (New Jersey Audubon) and Chavarillo, Mexico (Pronatura Veracruz) as a counter and bander added knowledge of North American raptors migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, as well as species of western and tropical distribution, such as Swainson’s and Short-tailed Hawks. He played an important role as we expanded the scope of monitoring at Curry Hammock beyond raptors, supplying much excitement and insight about all migratory bird species. Managing always to be on top of passing birds, and simultaneously taking excellent photos while holding clickers, Ted proved to be quite the multi-tasker. This season, he also wrote blog articles for FKH, helped enter historical data into HawkCount, and participated in ample discussions about the future of the project. I hope him the best in his future endeavors with raptor research, and hope he finds many interesting species in his future travels through Germany. We will keep a spot for him in the Keys.

We finalized the season with a round of fun events, including field trips and our first annual Hawk Talk – a round-table discussion about raptors. It was a homecoming weekend of sorts, with many friends attending the site and sharing big flights of vultures and Swainson’s Hawks. Jeff Bouton, raptor extraordinaire, is a great supporter of FKH and the Leica Marketing Manager – no surprise that there are “red dots” all over this post. Leica Camera provided binoculars and telescopes for volunteers and visitors to use throughout the count season. Joe Barros, president of Tropical Audubon Society, visited with his lovely wife Helen, and Ron and Elane Nuehring, president of the Miami Blue Chapter (North American Butterfly Association). Photos above also include Begoñe Cazalis and Juan Valadez.

A big thanks to the hundreds and hundreds of visitors, friends, supporters, field trips and the curious that stopped by the hawkwatch this fall, and to all those who donated their time and money in exchange of a t-shirt. We could not have done it without you!

Rafael Sunschoolers Gabe

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave Goodwin permalink
    December 3, 2012 4:09 pm

    You guys are fantastic!
    Dave Goodwin – President, Florida Ornithological Society

  2. permalink
    December 4, 2012 5:41 pm

    Congratulations on running such a great hawkwatch and getting such a group together–like the tee shirts you had made up and seeing the youngsters who were watching the hawks. best wishes for the holidays and next year’s hawkwatch. tom wasilewski Edinboro, PA NO REPLY NECESSARY

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