Sunday, September 11, 2011

Temporada loca

immature Mississippi Kite
As I wrote a couple of blog posts ago, we're seeing higher numbers than usual of Mississippi Kites here in Pronatura's Veracruz River of Raptors migration watch this year. In fact, last week we broke the previous season record of Mississippi Kite, dating from 2002 when 306,274 individuals were counted. We're now at 316,470 - and counting! They're still coming through in good numbers, although Tropical Storm Nate has interrupted the flow momentarily. Birds are likely bottling up north of us, and we may have a big flight on our hands when skies clear on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mississippi Kite about to catch that dragonfly
The first cold front of the season last week brought migrants that are generally expected a bit later in the season, like Swainson's Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, and American Kestrel. The broadwing flight also got underway, with almost a thousand individuals moving through these past days. And the first Hook-billed Kites of the season have been recorded - those birds at least perfectly on schedule.

A strong Mississippi Kite flight on the 7th of September produced a wonderful lift-off the next day, when for about an hour and a half we had a constant stream of low-flying kites in Chichicaxtle at the start of the count. Several thousand birds had spent the night in the surrounding areas and were trying to gain lift from the first developing thermals that day. Some of them hunted the also abundant migrant dragonflies.

our resident Zone-tail with an Inca Dove it just caught
An adult rufous morph Swainson's Hawk on the 3rd of September was the earliest ever recorded by the project. (A couple of days later, the Pronatura hawk banders caught a Swainson's Hawk in nearby Cansaburro, their earliest ever capture of this species.) Another unusual phenomenon thus far has been the high number of Zone-tailed Hawks this season. We're already at 77 migrants for the season, when until this time last year only 7 had been recorded.

Clearly, 2011 is exceptional, and the counters here speak of a "temporada loca" (crazy season).

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