Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Epic falcon flight

adult male Merlin
This afternoon I witnessed a falcon flight of truly epic proportions, one that has not been seen on Sandy Hook within the last eight years, and perhaps never before. The spring hawk watch at Sandy Hook has been going for decades, but only has data starting 2004 for the Hook, so that's the dataset I'm looking at. There was an exceptional kestrel flight on April 12, 2009, when a staggering 226 American Kestrels were logged as migrants.

Today's count, however, blew that number out of the water: 282 American Kestrels passed Sandy Hook in a matter of hours! At just slightly past the midway point of the season, this is already by far the best season on (recent) record for American Kestrel, with 664 logged so far... and counting!

As expected, Merlin did great too, with 78 individuals counted as migrants. The bird in the photo above landed in the Locust Grove just east of the hawk platform for a photo during the last hour of the count.

Also expected - at least by me - was a Swallow-tailed Kite that made a brief appearance around 4:30 EDT. When yesterday I saw how the weather forecast was shaping up for today, I knew I would have more than a passing shot at getting it. I started the count late, for the Hook was fogged in all morning, but as soon as the fog broke, there were raptors flying. When the flight reached a certain level of intensity, I figured there had to be a Swallow-tailed Kite in there... I spotted the bird lazily circling between the Lighthouse and the Officer's Building, seemingly not in a hurry to go anywhere. However, shortly after it turned around and went back south.

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