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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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Storm Surge: Raptor Style

September 22, 2018

Adult Peregrine Falcon with symmetrical wing molt. Photo by Chris Payne.

It took nearly two weeks but we finally got the weather system that we have been waiting for all season. On Friday afternoon, a thunderstorm rolled in from the north and brought with it two surges of raptors: one as the storm approached and another shortly after it passed through. While the storm did not actually drop any rain on Curry Hammock, it felt as though it were raining birds! Over a period of approximately 30 minutes, we had 2 Turkey Vultures, 2 Ospreys, 4 Northern Harriers, 1 Cooper’s Hawk, 5 Broad-winged Hawks, and an astounding 20 Peregrine Falcons fly directly overhead, practically low enough to touch! After so many consecutive days of sky high birds, this was a welcome event indeed, and one that hopefully becomes a more regular occurrence in the weeks to come.

Peregrine Falcon with unusual wing molt. Photo by Lindsey Duval.

Juvenile Northern Harrier. Photos by Lindsey Duval.

Turkey Vulture. Photo by Chris Payne.

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Steady Flights, Steady Heights!

September 19, 2018

Counters scanning the NW skies. L-R: Lindsey Duval, Chris Payne, Alex Lamoreaux, Luis Gles.

The story of the hawkwatch season so far has been consistency. The winds have remained nearly the same every day, coming from the Southeast or East with few exceptions. As a result the migration has been steady, with the top 5 days ranging between 214 and 293 raptors. The primary flight line of the season to this point has been far to the Northwest and very high up, forcing our counters to put their Leica optics to good use!

One of the many migrant Osprey past FKH this year. Photo by Luis Gles.

Osprey remains the most numerous migrant so far with 884 tallied after 10 days. With a good flight on Tuesday, we could top 1,000 for the season. In second: our famous Peregrine Falcons with 191. They have really picked up over the last four days with a daily high of 48 on Saturday. Merlins have picked up some steam with over half of the season’s total coming by in the last two days alone. Additionally, the first American Kestrel of the season was spotted on Friday. Buteos have begun to appear in the last four days with over 100 Broad-winged Hawks, the first Short-tailed Hawk, and two early Red-shouldered Hawks flying past the lookout.

A juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk at Long Key SP. Photo by Alex Lamoreaux.

Northern Harriers have trickled by in small numbers all season, with most of them being adult males: A.K.A. “Gray Ghosts.” Cooper’s Hawks have been fairly steady so far, but we are still awaiting the first Sharp-shinned Hawk of the season. Kites have been gradually trailing off since a big flight of them on Thursday, but we are still getting good numbers of both species for this point in the season. Hopefully we get some favorable weather soon to spur a big day!

A low-flying Swallow-tailed Kite. Photos by Luis Gles.

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