Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Great Stratford Bird Festival - Boothe Park Hawk Watch #2

Jumping ahead to Sunday, the second Boothe Park Hawk Watch of the Great Stratford Bird Festival went much better than the first. I realized when I started writing this entry I did not take any pictures during this event - and while I wish that was not the case, it demonstrates the busy day we had. Many visitors stopped by and experienced an abundant raptor flight.

A weak cold front moved through Connecticut the night before. The high pressure to the west was slow to move in before an overrunning pattern set up. We had no cold air mass behind this front, and with the first overrunning system already coming in, we had nearly 100% cloud cover for most of the day. The fact the high did not move in kept the winds essentially nonexistent with a weak northerly flow that turned northeast for most of the day. Northerly winds are nearly required for diurnal raptor movement of any substantial kind. Winds turned east at 4:30 with the low pressure coming in and the day was essentially over.

I started the count at 9AM, knowing Boothe Park probably had some passerine migrants from the night before. Our friend Charles Barnard Jr. came down to observe with me and answer any questions while telling some great stories. Visitors started coming by right at 11AM as the hawks really started taking flight. We had some wonderful observations before most people started departing. However, things only improved from there. Around 2, we had an adult Golden Eagle come in low over the rose garden. We even had a few minutes to observe it before it soared away. If that rare sight was not enough, at around 3:30 Charlie and I saw a juvenile Northern Goshawk fly right over our heads.

In the late afternoon what I called a "parade of Merlins" started. The falcon species was spotted, for the most part, flying over low on a north to south track. While we have only been recording hawks officially at Boothe Park for two seasons now, our old record of 5 was shattered as we saw 21 go by us. I observed one Merlin eating a dragonfly on the wing. Charlie spotted another that we thought had a bird in its talons.

The day ended up also being the best recorded yet for Cooper's Hawk and Peregrine Falcon. Below is the complete list from the Boothe Park count site for the day. It adds up to 49 species. The Turkey Vulture, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 2 Osprey, and 2 Red-tailed Hawk were "local" birds not migrating. All of the other raptors were migrants. That total ended up being 262 on the day with some very nice records and an impressively diverse flight.

3 American Black Duck
9 Double-crested Cormorant
1 Great Blue Heron
1 Turkey Vulture
37 Osprey
3 Bald Eagle
5 Northern Harrier
126 Sharp-shinned Hawk
43 Cooper's Hawk
1 Northern Goshawk
5 Broad-winged Hawk
3 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Golden Eagle
12 American Kestrel
21 Merlin
6 Peregrine Falcon
4 Ring-billed Gull
9 Herring Gull (American)
3 Rock Pigeon
1 Mourning Dove
18 Monk Parakeet
28 Chimney Swift
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Downy Woodpecker
2 Northern Flicker
1 Eastern Phoebe
47 Blue Jay
3 American Crow
1 Fish Crow
56 Tree Swallow
2 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
2 Golden-crowned Kinglet
2 American Robin
1 Gray Catbird
2 Northern Mockingbird
1 Brown Thrasher
650 European Starling
14 Cedar Waxwing
1 Chipping Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrow
1 Northern Cardinal
130 Common Grackle
108 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 House Finch
3 American Goldfinch
30 House Sparrow

Thank you to everyone who came and helped us watch the skies. We hope to see you again soon. There are definitely some very large flight days yet to come this fall.

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