Tag Archives: Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch

Derek’s Birding This Week, 5/8-14/2021

 

It’s warbler season! This obliging Northern Parula was in the canopy surrounding the
Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch on May 14th. You know the hawkwatching season is coming to a close when there are more species of warblers around the summit than migrant hawks tallied overhead!

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 12 species of warblers led by 40-60 Yellow-rumped Warblers and 10 Black-and-white Warblers, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 5/8 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk Group).
  • 17 species of warblers, led by 30+ Yellow-rumped and 9 Common Yellowthroats, Florida Lake Park, 5/11.
  • 1 Rusty Blackbird continues at Florida Lake Park through week’s end; regular in early May here.
  • 1 Warbling Vireo, our yard in Pownal, 5/14 (Yard Bird #131!)
  • 18 species of warblers led by 40+ Yellow-rumped and 19 Common Yellowthroats, Florida Lake Park, 5/14.
  • 1 Evening Grosbeak (with Noah Gibb) and 4 Lesser Yellowlegs (my 164th Patch Bird here!), Florida Lake Park, 5/14.

It’s on! My personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals included:

  • 1 Magnolia Warbler, Florida Lake Park, 5/8 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 1 American Redstart, Florida Lake Park, 5/8 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 1 Least Flycatcher, Florida Lake Park, 5/8 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 1 Lincoln’s Sparrow, Garcelon Bog Conservation Area, Lewiston, 5/9.
  • 2 Bank Swallows, Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, Pownal, 5/9.
  • 1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak, here at the store, 5/9.
  • 1 Great-crested Flycatcher, Florida Lake Park, 5/10.
  • 1 Solitary Sandpiper, Florida Lake Park, 5/10.
  • 14 American Pipits, Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 5/10.
  • 1 Eastern Kingbird, Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 5/10.
  • 1 Spotted Sandpiper, Florida Lake Park, 5/11.
  • 1 Wilson’s Warbler, Florida Lake Park, 5/11.
  • 1 Blackpoll Warbler, Florida Lake Park, 5/11.
  • 1 “WESTERN” Palm Warbler – rare but fairly regular in spring, Florida Lake Park, 5/11.
  • 2 Prairie Warblers, Hidden Pond Preserve, Freeport, 5/11.
  • 1 Swainson’s Thrush, Hedgehog Mountain Park, Freeport, 5/12.
  • 3 Bobolinks, Hedgehog Mountain Park, 5/12.
  • 1 Wood Thrush, Florida Lake Park, 5/14.
  • 2 Canada Warblers, Florida Lake Park, 5/14.
  • 2 Cape May Warblers, Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 5/14.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 4/17-23/2021

My Leica V-Lux camera went to the doctor, and it finally arrived after about two months. This Snowy Owl on our first Saturday Morning Birdwalk of the year was a great way to break it back in!

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 continuing immature SNOWY OWL, Pennell Way, Brunswick, 4/17 (with Saturday Morning Birdwalk group).
  • 2 Evening Grosbeaks, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/21.
  • Big push of White-throated Sparrows overnight 4/20-21 and perhaps another push later in the week. High count of 75+ at Capisic Pond Park and 100++ at Evergreen Cemetery (both 4/23 with client from Maine).
  • 1-2 Evening Grosbeaks, our yard in Pownal, 4/23.
  • 1 Peregrine Falcon and 1 Fish Crow, Capisic Pond Park, Portland, 4/23 (with client from Maine).

And my personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals this week were limited to just:

  • 1 Barn Swallow, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/20.
  • 1 Blue-headed Vireo, Florida Lake Park, 4/21.

On Tuesday  – our biggest flight of the season at the Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch – we observed an extremely pale Red-tailed Hawk. I propose it as a “Krider’s” x “Eastern” Red-tailed Hawk. Here’s my short blog about it:

https://mebirdingfieldnotes.blog/2021/04/21/apparent-kriders-x-eastern-red-tailed-hawk-pownal-maine-4-20-21/

And don’t forget about Feathers Over Freeport this weekend! Self-guided walks for kids, take-home crafts, and live online programs featuring live birds of prey. Saturday’s keynote address “Digi-scoping Made Easy” by Jeff Bouton on Kowa Sporting Optics.  We arranged for this based on the frequency of questions we get asked here at the store about taking photos through a spotting scope using a digital camera or a smartphone. It’s free, but pre-registration is require

www.maine.gov/feathersoverfreeport

Apparent “Krider’s” x “Eastern” Red-tailed Hawk, Pownal, Maine, 4/20/21

This stunningly pale immature Red-tailed Hawk passed over the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, sponsored by Freeport Wild Bird Supply, in Pownal, Maine on the afternoon of April 20, 2021.

Highly suggestive of the extremely pale “Krider’s” Red-tailed Hawk (a subspecies or quite possibly just a very pale color morph) from Central North America and with scattered vagrant records along the Eastern seaboard, we believe this individual shows features most consistent with an “intergrade” between the so-called Krider’s and our typical Eastern subspecies.

The very pale white head first brought my attention to this bird as it approached the summit from the north-northeast, and circled overhead and slightly behind the plethora of counters and observers on our biggest flight day of the season. Tova Mellen gets the award for the best photos – by far – and we appreciate her effort and willingness to share them. Thanks, Tova!

Andrew Sharp, Mathew Gilbert, and Charles Duncan also managed photos, and I was able to capture (poorly!) a few additional angles that show some helpful features.

The mostly-white head, very pale underparts, and lightly-marked underwings (especially the reduced patagium) all suggest Krider’s. However, the darker crown and fairly-dark spots on what would be the edges of the belly band are more suggestive of an intergrade.

The relatively bold white panel on the upperwings is also suggestive of Krider’s, but it’s not as bold and bright as many photos suggest. The back color is also brownish-gray. Both of these look to be more consistent with an intergrade.

The white uppertail coverts/lower rump area was more evident than this too-dark photo suggests, nonetheless, it does not seem white and broad enough to be a Krider’s. Unfortunately, the pattern of the uppertail was not decipherable.

The poor exposure of this photo makes the bird look much darker than it appeared in the field (looked more like Tova’s photos, above), but it does accentuate where the dark markings are and are not.

As for printed references, this bird looks to be a near-perfect match for the “Juv/1st Year Eastern x Krider’s Integrade on Page 66 of The Crossley ID Guide to Raptors.

We had limited views of the upperparts, but they did suggest the presence of fairly extensive white on the scapulars, the large pale window, and the narrow pale uppertail covert band as shown on page 293 of Raptors of Eastern North America by Brian K. Wheeler.

Therefore, we reached the tentative conclusion that this bird was an Eastern x Krider’s, but as with all subspecies and especially hybrid thereof, designations of Red-tailed Hawk, absolute identification is likely impossible. Fun bird though!

I’ll add any comments and feedback I receive here:

Derek’s Birding This Week, 4/3-9/2021

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 1 Red Crossbill, Runaround Pond, Durham, 4/3.
  • 1 drake “EURASIAN” GREEN-WINGED TEAL, Mouth of the Abagadasset River, Bowdoinham, 4/4 (with Jeannette).
  • 3 Red Crossbill, Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 4/8.
  • 1 probable WHITE-FACED IBIS (as previously reported; FOY), Rte 1/9 Salt Pannes, Scarborough MarSh, 4/9. However, it did not have particular bright bare parts or “face,” so it is either not yet in high breeding, or it could be a hybrid. My views were just a little too insufficient to be 100% sure.

And my personal first-of-years and new spring arrivals included (obviously I had not been to Scarborough Marsh in a while!):

  • 3 Wilson’s Snipe (FOS), Pineland Farms, 4/3 (with “Woodcocks Gone Wild!” tour group).
  • 1 Pine Warbler, Brown’s Point Road, Bowdoinham, 4/4 (with Jeannette)
  • 1 Double-crested Cormorant, Mouth of the Abby, Bowdoinham, 4/4 (with Jeannette).
  • 1 Winter Wren, Florida Lake Park, Freeport, 4/7.
  • 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (FOS), Florida Lake Park, 4/7.
  • 1 Purple Finch (FOS), feeders here at the store, 4/7.
  • 1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (FOS), Bradbury-Pinelands Corridor Trail, Pownal, 4/8.
  • 1 Osprey, Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch, 4/8.
  • 51 Glossy Ibis, Scarborough Marsh, 4/9.
  • 14 Great Egret, Scarborough Marsh, 4/9.
  • 3 Snowy Egrets, Scarborough Marsh, 4/9.
  • 1 pair GADWALL, Pelreco Marsh, Scarborough Marsh, 4/9.
  • 3 Savannah Sparrows (FOS), Scarborough Masrsh, 4/9.

Derek’s Birding This Week, 3/27-4/2/2021

My highlights over the past seven days included the following:

  • 5 Fox Sparrows continue in our yard in Pownal.
  • 7 SANDHILL CRANES (FOY), Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, 3/27.
  • 2 Pine Siskins (FOS), feeders here at the store, 3/27 – present.
  • 5 RUDDY DUCKS (FOY) and 1 first-cycle Iceland Gull, Sabattus Pond, Sabattus, 3/28.
  • 1 Eastern Phoebe (FOY), Sebago Lake State Park, 3/29 (with Jeannette).
  • 8 EVENING GROSBEAKS (FOS), our yard in Pownal, 4/2.
  • 3 Red Crossbills, feeding in the yard here at the store, 4/2.

2016 Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch Season In Review

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The 10th annual Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch wrapped up on May 15th, bringing a remarkable season to a close. Although I did go up for two hours to hope for a vagrant Mississippi or Swallow-tailed Kite on the 20th, netting five migrants (2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 1 each of Broad-winged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Merlin. All immatures as expected on the late date). It was worth a try!

Anna Stunkel, a College of the Atlantic graduate and veteran of the Lucky Peak hawkwatch in southwestern Idaho, was the 2016 Official Counter, and she did an incredible job. A tireless observer and interpreter, she introduced hundreds of visitors to the project, and to our numerous local Bald Eagles! While Jeannette and I covered her days off – when rain didn’t do the job for us – or whenever else we got a chance, our many volunteers, especially Zane Baker, Tom Downing, Dave Gulick, Chuck Barnes, and Rick Hartzell were priceless. No hawkwatch is successful without a loyal cadre of assistants – spotting birds, answering questions, and bringing food – so thanks to you all!
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The 2016 season total of 4,785 between March 15th and May 15th was our second highest total in the ten years of the project, and an impressive 17.6% above average (we exclude 2007 from our data analysis due to a change in methodology after this “trial” year).

Oddly enough, we amassed this tremendous total despite losing 16.5% of our possible coverage hours (9am to 5pm EDT) to weather, including fog, rain, snow, or high winds. The 414 total hours of observation was actually 6.6% below our average.

343 raptors passed the watch on April 17th, topped by the 980 tallied on 4/22 and 585 on 4/23. Those two amazing days changed our season dramatically – we went from worrying about a record low count to dreaming about a record high! 3,165 of our raptors passed through between April 16th and April 28th, accounting for 70% of our total flight.

Two rarities were recorded, headlined by a Black Vulture (our 7th of all time) on May 12th, and perhaps even rarer according to the season, a Broad-winged Hawk on March 20th (our previous earliest date was April 3rd, 2008 which itself was an outlier). We hypothesize that this was not a vanguard of the usual long-distant migrants arriving from Central America so early, but rather a bird that wintered either in South Florida or perhaps even well north of usual range thanks to the mild winter over the East.

Although southwesterly winds – our best conditions – were rare this spring, numerous days of west and light northwest in April, combined with sunny conditions and few weather systems during the peak weeks of our flight produced our great count, led by above average numbers of Osprey, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, American Kestrel, and Merlin. On our biggest day (4/22), light westerlies eventually turned to the southwest, and westerlies rotated around to the southeast on the following day.
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However, the mild winter and early onset of early spring – including snow-free conditions over much of the area on the first day of the count and ice-out already occurring on larger rivers – got the season off to a quick start, but also meant we missed a number of birds that had already continued north before the count started on March 15th. Below average numbers of Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and especially Red-tailed Hawks were the result. “Locals” of each from Day 1 also affected our count as we had to err on the side of caution early on to not overcount local birds (especially vultures and eagles) every time they flew around the mountain. It was a very, very different season from the 2015 count, in which winter never seemed to want to go away.

However, our record low 1 Peregrine Falcon is not as easy to explain – perhaps the constant westerlies just kept this predominately more coastal migrant far enough towards the coastline of Casco Bay.

As always, we also keep track of non-raptor migrants to the best of our ability.
2,010 Double-crested Cormorants, 1457 Common Grackles, 1028 Canada Geese, 918 Tree Swallows, and 747 unidentified/mixed blackbirds led the way.

Sandhill Cranes are now an annual occurrence, and this year we tallied four birds: 2 on 3/26, and one each on 4/16 and 4/25. The expansion/colonization/recolonization of Maine by this magnificent species continues, and our hawkwatch is apparently well placed to sample their return flight. Other noteworthy migrants included a White-winged Crossbill on 3/17, migrant Bohemian Waxwings on 3/26 (50) and 4/19 (29) with numerous visits by small flocks to the Common Juniper at the summit, and two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (4/22 and 5/3).

A total of 92 species were seen and/or heard from the summit, including regular vocalizations from local Barred Owls and a variety of warblers.

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  2016 Avg. 2008-2015 difference from average
Black Vulture 1 0.8 33.3%
Turkey Vulture 260 272.5 -4.6%
Osprey 513 431.1 19.0%
Bald Eagle 68 77.6 -12.4%
Northern Harrier 132 98.6 33.8%
Sharp-shinned Hawk 744 715.1 4.0%
Cooper’s Hawk 69 74.1 -6.9%
Northern Goshawk 2 7.9 -74.6%
Red-shouldered Hawk 75 91.4 -17.9%
Broad-winged Hawk 2123 1545.0 37.4%
Red-tailed Hawk 245 270.4 -9.4%
Rough-legged Hawk 0 0.9 -100.0%
Golden Eagle 0 0.5 -100.0%
American Kestrel 429 359.3 19.4%
Merlin 76 69.1 9.9%
Peregrine Falcon 1 5.4 -81.4%
       
Unidentified Raptor 47 47.3 -0.5%
Total 4785 4067.9 17.6%
       
Hours 414.25 443.5 -6.6%

Of course, this project doesn’t happen without your support of Freeport Wild Bird Supply, but we can’t do this without the support of Bradbury Mountain State Park and our co-sponsors, Leica Sport Optics. Our sincerest thank you goes out to Sunshine Hood, the new park manager at Bradbury (we can’t wait to grow the project with you!), and Jeff Bouton and Stan Bucklin of Leica.
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But most importantly, this project doesn’t happen without all of you joining our counter at the summit, learning about raptors, migration, and conservation. To show your support for the project, and to raise funds for future needs (counter’s salary, new signage, etc), check out the exclusive Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch t-shirt by North Yarmouth’s Coyote Graphics. It features Michael’s original artwork of the view from Bradbury within the outline of raptor on the front, and raptor silhouettes by the 2016 Official Counter, Anna Stunkel on the back.

We look forward to seeing you at the summit again beginning on March 15th, 2017 – or perhaps sooner if weather conditions align (like more kite weather!)
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2015 Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch Season in Review

The 2015 Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch, co-sponsored by Freeport Wild Bird Supply and Leica Sport Optics, came to its conclusion on May 15th. This season was an interesting one, especially in how the weather affected our counts. During the 2-month period, the Official Hawkcounter, Andrew Wolfgang, tallied a total of 3628 raptors. This included vultures, hawks, eagles, and falcons. Over the 8-year span that we have conducted this standardized count, this year was the second lowest, coming in 12% below average.

Andrew_at_the_Brad,3-14-15

The_Brad,3-14-15
Welcome to spring hawkwatching in Maine, Andrew!

However, a single year’s count tells us little beyond what the weather conditions were like during the course of the season. The late arrival of spring was actually a benefit to the count at the start, as few early migrants had progressed north by March 15th. Therefore, we had very good counts of our earliest migrants: Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Turkey Vultures. In fact, we set a new record for eagles deemed migrating, and vultures produced our second highest tally of all time. We simply didn’t “miss” any of these migrants before the project got underway.
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Bald Eagles set a new all-time record this season.

However, as the season progressed, spring still didn’t seem to arrive. Lots of unfavorable (for viewing birds at Bradbury Mountain) winds meant that viewing migrating hawks past this mountain was not optimal. Strong and cold west winds, for example, push birds towards the coast beyond our view, while persistent easterlies seem to shunt birds inland before they reach the northern terminus of the coastal plain. Simply put, the poor conditions during the peak of our migration period in mid to late April really lowered the overall numbers and it’s those couple of weeks that can really make or break the overall count for the season. Therefore, the below-average numbers of our two most abundant migrants (Broad-winged Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk) combined to yield a below-average season total.

However, we had some great birds once again, highlight by our 4th record of a Golden Eagle.
Golden Eagle Bradbury 4 edit

Andrew also recorded a new record of 3 Rough-legged Hawks, no doubt due to the late onset of the spring’s flight (most Rough-legs probably move north before the start of the count in most years).

Meanwhile, a total of 85 species were recorded, including an ever-increasing number of Sandhill Cranes. This year a total of 11 migrant cranes were recorded. Other highlights included frequent visits by Bohemian Waxwings to the summit for much of the first half of the count, both Red and White-winged Crossbills. Fox Sparrow was recorded at the summit for the first time as well (two dates).

But, this hawkwatch is not just about the numbers. We also work hard to educate visitors to the park, both birders and non-birders. Every year we expose more and more people to the world of hawkwatching and bird migration in general. Bradbury Mountain is just one of many hawk migration sites throughout the continent. The data we collect becomes part of this vast network allowing researchers to determine population and geographical trends in particular species. So, even though our numbers this year were low relative to past seasons, it becomes no small part of building this data set. 1174 visitors were recorded at the hawkwatch (tabulated as coming specifically for the hawkwatch or spending time chatting with the counter), plus many hundreds more who at least briefly read the sign or asked a question or two. This was slightly below average, but likely due to the cool conditions for most of the season.
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There are few public projects where scientific data collection so effectively goes hand-in-hand with public outreach and education. With the growth of regular hawkwatch visitor volunteers, and especially the growth of the “Feather Over Freeport: A Birdwatching Weekend” festival, we look forward to many more years of introducing people to hawkwatching and hawk research and conservation.

Season Totals:
Turkey Vulture 374
Osprey 382
Bald Eagle 102*
Northern Harrier 101
Sharp-shinned Hawk 610
Cooper’s Hawk 85
Northern Goshawk 4
Red-shouldered Hawk 104
Broad-winged Hawk 1190
Red-tailed Hawk 236
Rough-legged Hawk 3*
Golden Eagle 1
American Kestrel 307
Merlin 75
Peregrine Falcon 8
Unidentified Hawk 46

Total 3628

*Denotes new season record

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Peregrine Falcons just eclipsed our annual average this year; most migrants in this area stick closer to the coast.

Our ninth Spring Hawkwatch kicks off again on March 15th, 2016! We invite everyone, whether seasoned veteran hawkwatchers or casual nature enthusiast, to join our professional biologist and naturalist at the summit once again.

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Ospreys are a fan favorite at the hawkwatch.

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It was quite a change in climate and the color of the scenery since the start of the count!

2015 Bradbury Mountain SPRING Hawkwatch starts Sunday!

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Bald Eagles are already on the move, but the delayed start to spring have kept most of the birds to our south…just waiting to be tallied as they begin to push north.

Hawkwatching season is here! Freeport Wild Bird Supply (FWBS) will once again be partnering with Leica Sport Optics to sponsor the Spring Hawkwatch at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, beginning on March 15th. 2015 marks the ninth consecutive season for this project through which valuable data is collected while providing an enjoyable and educational experience for visitors. Not only does it feel like spring today, but in a mere four days (weather permitting), spring hawkwatching will be underway!

This year, we welcome Andrew Wolfgang as our official Hawkcounter. Andrew is a Biology graduate of Millersville University of Pennsylvania where he created two research projects studying bird diversity in riparian habitats and bird vocalization detection. Most recently, he worked as an environmental educator at Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Virginia. He is an experienced birder and hawkwatcher with a particular interest in Raptor Ecology. He’ll be stationed at the summit from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily from March 15th to May 15th.

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Sharp-shinned Hawks shattered their previous record count last season. What will this season’s totals look like?

Rising 485 feet above the southern coastal plain, Bradbury Mountain provides unimpeded views to the south and east all the way to the islands of Casco Bay. Whether using updrafts off the mountain, gliding overhead, or soaring over the plains, observers watch raptors utilizing a variety of migratory methods as they work their way north. The goal of the project is to document this migration by identifying and counting all raptors that pass by the mountain. Last year’s count was record-setting, with 6,015 hawks tallied, including 97 Bald Eagles, 724 Ospreys and 2,357 Broad-winged Hawks. All but two of our regularly occurring species were counted in above average numbers, with seven species showing record season highs. We were particularly excited to count 190 Red-shouldered Hawks (160% above the average) – a species that had not been known to migrate through Maine in any significant numbers before the start of this project nine years ago. Over a period of years, these data can be analyzed to determine trends in species numbers as well as changes in distributions, which when studied in conjunction with other monitoring sites across the continent, give us a broadscale idea of what is happening with raptor populations.

Last year’s record-shattering season got off to a great start thanks to the late arrival of spring. Late snowfall well to our south, cold temperatures and ice cover on lakes and rivers, and the lack of favorable southerly winds greatly limited the number of birds (especially Turkey Vultures, Bald Eagles, and Red-tailed Hawks) that pushed north before the beginning of our count season. We would expect a similar situation this spring – there hasn’t been a whole lot of spring prior to March 15th this year once again. That should get things off to a great start.

But, it is not just about the numbers. Hawkwatching is a very social activity that is accessible to birders of all abilities. Last spring, we interacted with more than 1500 visitors! Seeing your first kettle (group of birds rising up on an updraft or thermal) of 50+ Broad-winged Hawks, or learning how to tell the difference between a Bald Eagle and a Turkey Vulture several miles away is an eye-opening experience for many folks. Organized hawkwatch sites, like Bradbury Mountain, are great places to meet new people and learn about raptors and the conservation issues they face at the same time.

So, grab your binoculars and join us atop Bradbury Mountain this spring. Andrew will gladly answer questions about the raptors you will see and help visitors learn what to look for to identify the 18 species that may pass by. The hawkwatch is free, though there is an entry fee to the park.

Also, be sure to mark your calendar for Feathers Over Freeport: A Birdwatching Weekend on April 25th – 26th. The Hawkwatch will be one of many featured activities during this family-oriented event at Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Parks.

More information about the hawkwatch, including a link to daily counts, can be found on our website, here.

And to read about last spring’s record-shattering season, check out this blog entry on Leica’s blog.

And you know where to find me on most birding days for the next two months!

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Northern Harrier was also among the eight species that set a new record last season.

Three Days of Migration Watching in May -Day and Night.

In my blog last Wednesday, I made some prognostications about what we might expect for birds in the coming days. Let’s see how I did so far.

Rain began to fall Wednesday evening, and continued, heavy at times, through Thursday morning. With a persistent easterly wind, overnight migration was non-existent. In the rain on Thursday morning, Katrina and I checked out Florida Lake Park, but found only about 20 Yellow-rumped and 10 Palm warblers – fewer than in recent days. The local River Otter pair, however, put on a great show. Nothing new under the feeders at home (or at the store), either.

Afterwards, I took a spin through the local farms and fields, but found nothing out of the ordinary; it’s too early for most shorebirds anyway. Admittedly, however, I had vagrants on my mind (and still do! As usual). Although the southerly winds conducive to southern overshoots (as I discussed in the aforementioned blog) had yet to kick in, the deep easterly flow that we have been ensconced within could offer up its own surprises. With reports of the “largest incursion of Icelandic/European birds to Newfoundland in recent memory,” including amazing tallies of European Golden-Plovers, 9 Black-tailed Godwits, North America’s 4th (or so) Common Redhank…yeah, the “Rarity Fever” in me can’t help but kick up. Perhaps something will ride one of those Iceland-Portland cargo ships that are in service these days!

Light rain continued through Thursday morning, diminishing to drizzle and fog until the afternoon, when a shift to westerly winds began to clear things out. Overnight, light and variable winds suggested a good migration should occur, but the radar wasn’t showing more than a light flight.
1am radar, 5-2-14  1am velocity, 5-2-14

However, it was foggy for much of the night, and fog can obscure the image of birds on the radar, especially if they are flying low. “Birding by radar” is not infallible, and I had a feeling it might have been a little misleading this morning. A steady trickle of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving over the yard at dawn confirmed this. The weather was just too-not-terrible for there not to be a lot of birds on the go.

So off to Florida Lake I went.  And, for a change this spring, I was not disappointed.  100+ Yellow-rumped Warblers, 20+ Palm Warblers, my first Northern Waterthrush and Black-throated Green Warbler (finally!) of the year, a singing migrant Greater Yellowlegs, and much, much more. I caught the lingering pair of Green-winged Teal copulating; are they going to breed here? Ring-necked Ducks had increased to 16 and there is still a pair of Common Mergansers here.

As the fog burned off, the sun shone brightly, and heat began to rise in swirling thermals, hawks took to the skies on the light westerly wind. I had to pull myself away from the hawkwatch kicking and screaming at 12:30, but by then we had eclipsed (at 10:35) our all-time record count of 4,474 birds when a Merlin streaked by. 388 Broad-winged Hawks and 22 Sharp-shinned Hawks were included in the total of 429 migrant raptors when I departed.

Last night’s passerine migration – yup, the fog on the radar definitely obscured the intensity of the flight! – was still evident well past noon, as Yellow-rumped Warblers were still on the go, reorienting inland after last night’s flight. Well over 200 had passed the summit by the time I departed, as did my first two Chimney Swifts and Eastern Kingbirds (also 2) of the year. And by day’s end, 705 raptors led by 583 Broad-wings were tallied, adding to our record totals. Around 4:00pm, our 5000th raptor had passed – a milestone we never thought we would reach.

Come nightfall, the radar was active once again.  Here are the 1am reflectivity and velocity images for example:
1am radar, 5-3-141am velocity, 5-3-14

Notice the dark greens in the center of the return, but overall the rather narrow diameter of the image?  My guess is that mostly overcast skies and a light westerly winds, perhaps including some turbulence from the passing cold front, kept birds low once again.  But, without fog around, it was certain that this was birds – confirmed by the distance SW-NE pattern of the velocity image, and its speed. I think it was actually a lot of birds.

And come morning, Yellow-rumped Warblers were overhead as I stood on the back porch at dawn, and the Saturday Morning Birdwalk group and I headed over to Florida Lake.  Yeah, it was good.  Very good.

In the past few days, we’ve also finally had the first couple of reports of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Baltimore Orioles, so that those have just begun to arrive.  As I mentioned the other day, food is in short supply for these backyard favorites, so feeders are going to be important for the first arrivals.

But no vagrants from the south, or East …yet!