Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First big day

Here at the River of Raptors Hawk Count project in Veracruz, Mexico, we finally had a big raptor flight yesterday. For both count sites combined, we reached a day total of 71,932 raptors. There's only a handful of North American sites where they get this many birds for the entire season, never mind just one day. Most of these birds were broadwings.

A tropical depression last week brought much rain to the Gulf Coast area, including Veracruz and parts north of us. Consequently, numbers remained low for practically all species except maybe Mississippi Kite, for which the season is turning out to be normal.

With only a couple more days to go in September, we can already say that we are very low on Turkey Vultures (6,777 for the season so far when 40,000 would be normal), and very low on broadwings (only 117,641 when a million ought to be possible by now). Most other species are low still, but Osprey is having a normal to good year so far, Northern Harrier is normal, and Merlin (pictured above) is normal to good. Numbers of Peregrine Falcon are also about normal for this time of year, but American Kestrel is still dramatically low. Yesterday was the first day with some kestrel movement. In a week or two we should be seeing bigger numbers.

Speaking of falcons, I had a very high-flying falcon in the scope yesterday that I struggled to identify for about a minute, and eventually just let go unidentified. The bird seemed large, very pale, with a fairly long tail and what seemed like dark underwing coverts. In other words, like a Prairie Falcon, a species that has never been recorded at this site and one of only two North American raptors I have never seen. I'm not going to call a super rare species when it's barely visible in binoculars, and is still much more likely to have been a Merlin or a Peregrine.

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