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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.

Latest Data HawkCount

FKH18 – First Week – Highlights!

September 13, 2018

One of many migrant Ospreys past the hawkwatch. Photo by Lindsey Duval.

The 2018 season began a week later than normal due to housing complications from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, but we have hit the ground running. The first five days of the Hawkwatch have produced 698 raptors of ten different species, with Osprey being the most common by far with 444 flying by.

 

The unmistakable Swallow-tailed Kite. Photo by Lindsey Duval.

Despite the late start, we have had good numbers of both Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, both known for being early-season migrants. The first Broad-winged Hawk was seen on Tuesday, followed by two more on Wednesday. And of course the most famous bird for the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, the Peregrine Falcon, is off to a great start with 40 migrating past!

 

A nice Yellow-throated Warbler from Long Key State Park. Photo by Lindsey Duval.

In addition to the Hawkwatch, the transect counts at Long Key State Park have provided some good birding. We have had 12 species of warbler so far including: many Prairie Warblers and Northern Waterthrushes, several Worm-eating Warblers and Yellow-throated Warbler, and a single male Cape May Warbler still in brilliant breeding plumage.

 

One of the Whimbrels seen from the wrack line at Long Key State Park. Photo by Lindsey Duval.

Park management has been kind enough to grant us special access to stretches of the shoreline that are still being repaired from the hurricane, which has allowed us to find 10 species of shorebirds, including Black-bellied Plovers, Western Sandpipers, a Sanderling, and two Whimbrels. Hopefully a true rarity will show up in the park soon!

Latest Data HawkCount

The FKH 2018 T-Shirts Are Available!

September 12, 2018

The Florida Keys Hawkwatch 2018 T-shirt is now available for sale – $35 each. Proceeds go towards continuing the monitoring of bird migration in the Keys. Shirts are available in a broad selection of sizes, silk-screen printed on high-quality, soft, heather-gray crewshirts front and back. Short and long-sleeved available.

 

 

 

Orders are processed through Leica Store Miami. Proceeds go the the Florida Keys Hawkwatch.

 

The soft, crewneck shirts feature a design featuring the site’s claim-to-fame Peregrine Falcon migration. Short and long sleeves are available.

  • Printed on American Apparel’s 2001
  • Fits as expected
  • 90% Cotton, 10% Polyester
  • Designed, printed and made in the USA.

Fits as expected (Model Kirsten 5’4″ is wearing an XS.) *Binoculars not included. 

Show your support, take a picture with your FKH shirt and tag #fkh2018 and @floridakeyshawkwatch

 

FKH 2018 Count Team

September 11, 2018

Luis Gles, Chris Payne, Lindsey Duval and Rafael Galvez. Photo by Mark Hedden.

The FKH 2018 Team will be counting daily -rain or shine – from the observation deck at Curry Hammock State Park from 9 am to 4 pm through October 31, 2018. For more information about getting to the site, here is a link to our “Participate” page.

MEET THE FKH 2018 TEAM:

Chris Payne has been birding since childhood, frequenting his local hawkwatch at Allegheny Front in Western PA. Chris was one of our full-season counters during the fall of 2016. During 2017, he was the counter for New Jersey Audubon’s Montclair Hawk Watch. He has worked on point counts to monitor Golden-winged Warblers, worked with horseshoe crabs, conducted surveys for Louisiana Waterthrushes and Cerulean Warblers, and has wide experience ranging from veterinary technician to invasive plant eradication. He is from Berlin, PA.

Lindsey Duval is an avid birder and has a broad-ranging experience in and out of the field. She has worked with Golden-cheeked Warblers in Texas, monitoring nests and conducting point counts to target banded birds. She has worked with Common Yellowthroats, including mist-netting and territorial experiments during nesting season. Lindsey has performed point counts for Pennsylvania’s Breeding Bird Atlas, banded birds with the Purple Martin Conservation Association and surveyed for American Woodcocks. She has joined us from Saratoga Springs, NY.

Luis Eduardo Gles is a Colombian naturalist and is a familiar member of South Florida’s birding community. He has dedicated much time in recent years as a volunteer at the Cape Florida Banding Station on Biscayne Bay. He is a founding member of Valley of the Colors, an organization focused on developing ecotourism in Colombia and Florida, and coordinating with bird tracking agencies. Luis is bilingual and will be instructive in connecting with our Spanish-speaking visitors.

Fall Migration Counters Wanted

August 14, 2018

The Florida Keys 2018 migration monitoring season will run from September 7 through October 31. We are still looking for full-time, part-time and volunteer counters.

Contact taspublisher@gmail.com if you are interested.

Hurricane Irma Update

October 2, 2017

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service has announced that Curry Hammock State Park and Long Key State Park remain closed indefinitely and until further notice, following Hurricane Irma. The Florida Parks Service is working to quickly and safely reopen parks.

DEP updates regarding park closures will be posted in the following site:

https://www.floridastateparks.org/content/storm-information

The FKH 2017 count team evacuated the Florida Keys in anticipation of the hurricane. All counters are safe and back at home. Thank you all for your positive comments. We will be back soon. Our best wishes to the people affected by the natural disasters.

Highlights of the First Days

September 5, 2017

A Swainson’s Warbler working the leafy floor of the Coastal Berm at Long Key. By Rafael Galvez

Although early September can be a bit slow in terms of migration, we have started our surveys at Long Key with interesting birds. Long Key State Park’s Orb Trail offers a fantastic mosaic of native habitats in a bite-sized 3km loop. At one end you start through a thick forest of Red Mangroves, then continue along a Coastal Berm flanked by dunes and a barrier of Black Mangroves.

Left: Red Mangrove forest. Right: Forest understory dominated by the finger-like pneumatophore roots of Black Mangroves.

The Coastal Berm transitions through scrub, Buttonwood stands and hardwood clusters until it curls back along an interior lagoon through a Salt Pan, which is composed of stunted vegetation tolerant of extreme hydroperiods that toggle between tidal and rain flooding, and overexposure to sun. Finally, the trail enters a tropical Hardwood Hammock.

Marc Kramer enters transect count data along the Coastal Berm at Long Key. Photos R. Galvez.

Jesse Amesbury documents birds along the stunted vegetation of the salt pan at Long Key. The ground is covered by shards of coral and shells washed up by the tides.

In the last three days, we have seen torrential rain, variable winds with gusts up to 15 km/h and plenty of sun. We have already experienced good flights of songbirds, and the start of raptor migration.

Kenny Fowler scans the skies from the hawkwatch deck looking for additional kites after the passage of back-to-back groups of Swallow-tails.

At Long Key, highlights have included several warbler species such as American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. Prairie Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Ovenbird have been most common, particularly the first two. Most unusual – and a favorite – has been Swainson’s Warbler.

A Swainson’s Warbler nearly disappears into the understory as it searches for insects by burrowing into the leaves. Before long, it finds insects and spiders to eat. Photos – Rafael Galvez.

Other Long Key highlights included several Chuck-will’s-widows, Black-whiskered Vireos, White-crowned Pigeons, Ridway’s Osprey, many Bobolinks and countless Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and swallows flying overhead.

The Hardwood Hammocks of the Keys are great for finding Chuck-will’s-widows during migration, if you can manage not to spook them. Photo R. Galvez.

A Prairie Warbler in flight over the hawkwatch deck, nicely captured by Jesse Amesbury.

At the hawkwatch we are off to a great start with 10 species of diurnal raptors already detected including Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, Short-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, and the first of many expected Peregrines and Merlins. We are also documenting the passage of hundreds of swallows, with nearly 1500 Barn Swallows tallied on Monday alone. We are beginning to see flocks of ducks and shorebirds moving through, and a broad assortment of wading birds including Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbills flying over the hawkwatch deck at Curry Hammock. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

A Short-tailed Hawk parachuting towards potential prey on tree tops surrounding the hawkwatch deck. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

Jesse Amesbury (left) and Marc Kramer (on stepladder) scan for migrants atop our new larger deck at Curry Hammock State Park.

This is just the beginning. There will be many more migrants to share in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes on the skies!