Friday, October 16, 2009


So much to write about, so little time.

Today a short update on some of the more notable recent sightings from the Veracruz River of Raptor counts in Cardel and Chichicaxtle.

Perhaps the weirdest sighting, and still controversial, was that of a Northern Goshawk on the 4th of October. The bird was in a line, fairly low, that I was counting overhead in Cardel. Irving was scanning this line a little farther ahead, and suddenly came over to me all excited saying "John! John! Take a look at this bird!" At that moment, the bird was directly overhead and for about 2 seconds, I got to look at it, before it disappeared behind the top structure of the hotel. It was obviously a very large accipiter. When I lowered my binoculars, I looked at Irving and said "Goshawk??" That's what it looked like to me, and evidently that was also what it looked like to him. But that's a bird so unlikely to show up here that I remained incredulous for a while. We both saw the bird well, and although the lighting conditions were not sufficient to note plumage details, the shape and the sheer size of the bird - much bigger than any Cooper's Hawk I've ever seen - seemed to point to that species. Of course there are no photos of this bird, and for this reason it will probably remain controversial. Fact is that two competent observers saw this bird not very far and both independently reached the same conclusion. On the other hand, supportive plumage details would have been a lot better. It's a sighting that I personally am not very happy with - it went by too fast to be 100% sure.

I also got to see a Ferruginous Hawk, further away but visible for a longer time. It was in a line I was counting and I almost immediately knew what it was, even though I had never seen one before. I called Rigo, one of the other counters, who looked at the bird through the scope and confirmed the identification. This was on October 7. Another one was seen on October 13.

A couple of Jabirus were seen recently, I don't remember exactly which date. Wish I had seen them; there was one last year and I missed that one. It's a species I have yet to see for the first time.

And only a few days ago, on October 13, a probable Rough-legged Hawk was seen and in fact photographed in Cardel. Two photos were taken of the bird, neither one of very high quality. The photos have been reviewed by various experts and nobody seems to be able to flat out call it a unquestionable Rough-legged Hawk, although most reviewers tend to lean towards that species. I wasn't there so I never saw the bird, I've only seen the photos. The bird in the photos shows carpal patches, but lacks a belly shield - unusual for a Rough-legged Hawk.

Anyway. The photos today are of completely different species. The bird at the top, flying near the moon, is a Hook-billed Kite, while the second photo in today's entry is of a dark morph Broad-winged Hawk. We see them every day and every once in a while, one is low enough to get a decent photo of.

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