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New Merlin Records!

October 18, 2018

On Sunday (10/14/18), we set the single-day record for Merlins with 110. Only three days later, we broke the seasonal max record! We had exactly 900 Merlins heading into Wednesday and needed only nine to top the previous season high of 908 from 2014. The record-breaking bird came through at 11:24 am (10/17/18) and, like many others of its species, was gone in a matter of seconds. With two weeks remaining in the season, we should continue to add on to the new record. The goal now is to get to 1,000!

Merlin #909 going by in a blur (L) and another taking a break on a snag (R). Photos by Chris Payne (L) and Luis Gles (R).

While it has undoubtedly been a good year for Merlins, a portion of the high count can be attributed to improved visibility as a result of Hurricane Irma. Merlins are low-flying migrants that like to hunt through the treetops as they fly south. Prior to 2017, the trees to the northwest of the Hawkwatch platform were getting very tall and obstructing the view. As a result, many Merlins could have easily snuck by undetected. Hopefully the upcoming years will continue to produce high counts of this feisty falcon.

Luis Gles updating the Merlin numbers to include this year’s records.

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500 Peregrines – The 5th Highest Flight!

October 18, 2018

Chris Payne (L) and Luis Gles (R) after the record-breaking PEFA flight.

From October 9th through the 14th, 3-digit Peregrine Falcon flights were recorded at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch. The crown of that spectacular stretch was October 13, when a total of 500 Peregrines were counted from the Curry Hammock deck at FKH. That was the 5th highest count of Peregrines ever recorded in the world. While this hawkwatch has established several records, this is spectacular since FKH also holds record for the top four flights ever recorded for the species. No other count has tallied over 364 Peregrines in a single day. Congratulations to Chris and Luis for monitoring the skies during that memorable 10-hour count day!

October 14, 2018

To celebrate “Bird Like a Girl Day” on October 14 – co-hosted by the Phoebes birding group, our own hawkwatcher, Lindsey Duval wrote a great blog entry explaining the benefits of raptor monitoring. Please click on the image below to link to the blog entry, posted on the Phoebes website. Enjoy!

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.

Celebrate PEREGRINE DAYS – Oct. 11-14

October 5, 2018

More Peregrine Falcons fly over the Florida Keys than anywhere else in the world. Peregrines are the fastest animals on the planet, reaching speeds over 200 mph on a stooping dive. They are beautiful predators that were once nearly lost to extinction due to pesticides. The Florida Keys Hawkwatch is record holder for the site to document the highest number of Peregrines in a season (4,559 – fall of 2015) and in a single day (1,506 on Oct. 10, 2015.


Do you want to witness the flight of Peregrine Falcons and learn more about their migration? Join us:

  • Thursday, October 11th   |   “Birds n’ Brews”  Raptor Weekend kickoff event. Get a crash course in raptor identification, plus learn the history of raptor migration through South Florida, all the while enjoying some Brooklyn Brews. 7 – 9 PM, Leica Store Miami, Coral Gables. Learn more.

  • Friday, October 12th   |   “Día de Los Peregrinos”  In English and Spanish; all ages. Dawn your best hawk costume and witness the flight of numerous Peregrine Falcons. 10 AM – 5 PM, Florida Keys Hawkwatch, Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon. Learn more.

  • Friday, October 12th   |   Hawk Mania Keynote Presentation – A curated conversation about migrating birds of prey between Rafael Galvez, Jeff Bouton, and Mark Hedden entitled, “Hawk Migration in the Keys: What We Know, How We Know It, And What We’re Still Trying To Figure Out”. 6:30 – 7:30 PM, Key West Garden Club, Key West. Learn more.

  • Saturday, October 13th   |   Hawk Mania  All day hawkwatch in Key West, plus a scheduled songbird walk, butterfly walk and hawk ID program for kids. 9 AM – 3 PM, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West. Learn more.

  • Sunday, October 14h   |   Bird Like a Girl Day – Phoebes Birding, South Florida’s only women’s birding group, present the first official women’s day at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch. Learn about migration all the while getting to know other female birders. 9:30 AM – 4:00 PM,  Florida Keys Hawkwatch, Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon. Learn more.

A series of events co-hosted by some of South Florida’s prominent birding and conservation organizations including: Florida Keys Hawkwatch, Florida Keys Audubon Society, Tropical Audubon Society, Leica Store Miami and Phoebes Birding.

Hot October!

October 4, 2018

Adult Peregrine Falcon with prey at Long Key State Park. Photo by Chris Payne.

October has gotten off to a blazing start at the Hawkwatch with three consecutive triple-digit Peregrine Falcon days! Wednesday marked the best day of the season so far with 178 Peregrines and 345 total raptors being tallied. This catapulted us past the 1,000 Peregrine mark for the season, landing us at 1,141. The wind is forecasted to remain out of the ENE for the next several days, so these impressive flights should continue!

Adult dark-morph Short-tailed Hawk. Photo by Chris Payne.

Several species of raptors that were hard to come by in September will be sure to increase as the month moves on. Sharp-shinned Hawks and American Kestrels have only just begun to show up in the Keys, but should soon be numerous migrants. Several dark-morph Short-tailed Hawks have been seen displaying their aerial acrobatics from the Hawkwatch platform, and it’s only a matter of time before their light-morph counterparts arrive.

American Avocet at Curry Hammock State Park. Photo by Chris Payne.

The raptor migration isn’t the only one heating up here in October. There have been 15 species of warblers seen at Long Key State Park since the beginning of the month, as well as other passerines such as Summer Tanagers, Baltimore Orioles, and Indigo Buntings. Curry Hammock has turned up a few other migrants including Swainson’s Thrush, Dickcissel, and American Avocet. We’ll be ready at both locations for whatever comes next!

Peregrine Falcon Calendar: October 3

October 3, 2018

FKH has tallied 3-digit Peregrine Falcon numbers during every calendar day from September 23 through October 21 for at least one season from 1999-2018. Some calendar days have tallied 3-digit Peregrine counts year after year.

October 3rd is another example. To date, 7 seasons at FKH have tallied 100 or more Peregrines on October 3 – including 2018 (178 – third 3-digit Peregrine count of the season, pushing the 2018 total to 1141).

October 3, 2003: 122 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2007: 178 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2008: 110 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2010: 134 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2014: 359 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2016: 140 Peregrine Falcons
October 3, 2018: 178 Peregrine Falcons

Photo by Rachel Smith.

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Peregrine Falcon Calendar: October 2

October 2, 2018

FKH has tallied 3-digit Peregrine Falcon numbers during every calendar day from September 23 through October 21 for at least one season from 1999-2018. Some calendar days have tallied 3-digit Peregrine counts year after year.

October 2nd is a great example. To date, 6 seasons at FKH have tallied 100 or more Peregrines on October 2 – including 2018 (113 – second 3-digit Peregrine count of the season).

October 2, 2003: 195 Peregrine Falcons
October 2, 2011: 393 Peregrine Falcons
October 2, 2013: 116 Peregrine Falcons
October 2, 2014: 354 Peregrine Falcons
October 2, 2016: 161 Peregrine Falcons
October 2, 2018: 113 Peregrine Falcons



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Photo by Kerry Ross.

Peregrine Falcon Calendar: October 1

October 1, 2018

FKH has tallied 3-digit Peregrine Falcon numbers during every calendar day from September 23 through October 21 for at least one season from 1999-2018. Some calendar days have tallied 3-digit Peregrine counts year after year.

October 1st is a great example. To date, 9 seasons at FKH have tallied 100 or more Peregrines on October 1 – including 2018 (101 – first 3-digit Peregrine count of the season).

October 1, 2000: 154 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2002: 101 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2003: 521 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2008: 155 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2011: 115 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2013: 120 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2014: 233 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2016: 151 Peregrine Falcons
October 1, 2018: 101 Peregrine Falcons



Triple Digit MIKIs!

September 27, 2018

Mississippi Kite photo by Rafael Galvez.

With two early morning Mississippi Kites (A.K.A. MIKIs or “Mickeys”) on Wednesday, we crossed the triple digit threshold to get to 101 on the season. This is already the third highest season total for this species and puts us within arm’s reach of the single season record of 128 from 2014.

Flight shots of migrant Mississippi Kites. Photos by Chris Payne.

Getting 28 more birds to set the record should be no problem with more than a month to go, right? Not necessarily. Kites are known as early-season migrants and historically are hard to come by at FKH later in the season. In fact, from 1999 to 2011, only about six MIKIs were recorded on average in October. Some numbers are working in our advantage though. The past five Octobers (excluding 2017 due to Hurricane Irma) have produced an average of 41 MIKIs, and the highest single-day total of 28 came on September 27th, (today!) 2012. It is impossible to predict how many we will finish with on the season; all we can do is keep our eyes on the skies and find out!

Photos of Mississippi Kites from the FKH deck by Bob Stalnaker.

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