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October 11th: 1,292 Raptors!

October 13, 2018

A small portion of a Broad-winged Hawk kettle. Photo by Chris Payne.

The big day we’ve been waiting for finally came! We had our first 4-digit raptor day of the season with a total of 1,292 migrants flying past Curry Hammock on Thursday. Ironically, we went into the day with modest expectations knowing that Hurricane Michael made landfall the previous day to our north. It quickly became evident that we were in for a big day when the first three hours (typically the slowest part of the day) produced 150 birds. It only got better from there: we logged our first 100+ bird hour of the season during the 12:00 hour, then did it three more times over the next five hours. The most remarkable part of the flight though, came at the end of the day. From 4:00 to 6:00, we logged an incredible 701 raptors! A large portion of these were Broad-winged Hawks, including a single kettle of more than 300 individuals.

Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk (L) and Adult Peregrine Falcon (R). Photos by Chris Payne.

When it was all said and done, we set the season high for six different species. We had 24 Turkey Vultures, 204 Osprey, 119 Sharp-shinned Hawks (more than quintupling our previous season total), 20 Cooper’s Hawks, 646 Broad-winged Hawks, and 181 Peregrine Falcons! Rounding out the count was one Bald Eagle, 23 Northern Harriers, 53 American Kestrels, 16 Merlins, and one Mississippi Kite (putting us one closer to the season record).  Today was one of those days where it was difficult to not just sit back in awe and take in one of nature’s greatest spectacles: migration.

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