Friday, October 11, 2013

Raptor migration in the Gulf of Fonseca

Swainson's Hawks migrating over San Lorenzo, Valle
Exactly one year ago, on 10 October 2012, I observed a large raptor flight in San Lorenzo, Valle. Thinking the same phenomenon would likely be visible at the same location a year later, Roselvy and I went down to the southern lowlands yesterday, where we visited the same site, and a few nearby birding spots.

Sure enough, when we got there, we found a sizable raptor flight in progress. Like last year, the flight consisted mostly of Turkey Vultures and Swainson's Hawks, with modest numbers of Broad-winged Hawks and a smattering of other species present. Unlike last year, most lines were far away from the salt ponds complex La Ostia, where we started our birding, so there we focused on the shorebirds present.

Wilson's Plovers
Those too were nearly the same species and number as last year! Last year I missed Stilt Sandpiper – yesterday two were present; and I missed (western) Willet – yesterday three were present. We missed Solitary Sandpiper yesterday, but apart from those differences, we observed the same species in more or less the same numbers as exactly one year ago.

Stilt Sandpipers
After an hour and forty-five minutes in oppressive midday heat, we bailed and looked for food, shade and a better view of the raptor flight at Restaurante Brisas del Golfo. There we observed a raptor line directly overhead, one further south crossing the Gulf, and one further inland over the hills. Although we didn't count, we estimated about 10,000 Turkey Vultures, 6,000 Swainson's Hawks and 500 Broad-winged Hawks to have been passing us during the one hour and forty-five minutes we spent there.

Swainson's Hawks
A final stop at nearby shrimp farm Culmavic added migrant Chimney Swift and American Kestrel to our list, as well as the locally common Clapper Rail.

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