Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 30 September 2014

Breaking All the Wrong Records in an Unbelievably Stunning Fashion

Today’s Count: 73

Osprey-1

Bald Eagle-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-12

Cooper’s Hawk-1

Broad-winged Hawk-50

American Kestrel-1

Peregrine Falcon-1

Mississippi Kite-5

White-tailed Kite-1

Today’s highlights consisted of a Bald Eagle, 24 Dark Ibis, 28 White Pelicans, 33 Forster’s Terns, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a Brown Thrasher, and a small increase in Northern Rough-winged Swallows.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Apart from the Zone-tailed, September has been an unbelievably disappointing month for raptor numbers to say the least. Here’s a look at some of the records broken-records no hawk counter ever wants to break. All numbers refer to full seasons.

  • Worst raptor season ever at Smith Point for the period of August and September with 5,478 raptors counted so far
  • Worst September ever for raptors with 3,740 raptors
  • Worst number of raptors per hour recorded for the period of August and September with 12.13 raptors per hour over the course of 61 days
  • Fewest number of 100+, 200+, 300+, 400+, 500+ raptors in a day in September ever
  • First September ever without a 1,000+ raptor day
  • First September ever without two 1,000+ raptor days
  • First September ever without at least five 650+ raptor days
  • Lowest September and August/September Broad-winged Hawk totals ever
  • Lowest September and August/September Osprey totals ever
  • Lowest September and August/September Sharp-shinned Hawk totals ever with 212 in September, 24% fewer than the next lowest September season of 278 Sharp-shinned Hawks
  • Lowest ever September for American Kestrel with just 22 birds, 77.1% fewer than the next lowest September season of 92 American Kestrels
  • Lowest September and August/September ever for Merlins
  • Lowest September and August/September ever for Peregrine Falcon
  • 2nd lowest September and August/September Northern Harrier totals ever
  • 2nd lowest September and August/September ever totals for Cooper’s Hawk
  • Tied for 2nd lowest Red-shouldered Hawk September and August/September totals ever
  • 2nd lowest August/September Swallow-tailed Kite total ever and tied for 2nd lowest Swallow-tailed Kite September ever
  • Fourth lowest August/September Mississippi Kite total ever
  • Total number of August/September raptors (5,478) is 55.3% lower than the previous worst August/September season ever (12,250 raptors)!!!
  • Total number of September raptors (3,740) is 64.4% lower than the previous worst September ever (10,512 raptors)!!!!

Those facts above are incredible in so many ways. Yes, there was always the possibility of a lower season happening for August/September and yes, the possibility of having some fewer numbers of certain species always exists in any given season. However, the manner in which it has been done will be nearly impossible to duplicate ever again. Ok, maybe this was going to be the lowest August/September ever but you would think that this number would be close to the previous lowest August/September ever of 12,250 raptors for this period. Maybe 12,000 raptors recorded, maybe 11,000 was possible or even very drastically only 10,000 raptors for the period. However, 5,478 raptors is a number no one could ever have imagined to be possible for this time period. In fact, there have been 4 Mississippi Kite seasons for the period of August and September that are more than the total number of raptors, 17 species, recorded this season so far!!! Certainly this will be a record that’ll never be broken for Smith Point. While 100,000 raptors has only been broken once at Smith Point, with 117,517 raptors recorded, it is a very realistic possibility that Smith Point will one day have a 150,000+ raptor season. With the right conditions, i.e. a tropical storm/hurricane in the right location(s), Smith Point could easily have an even more incredible number than 150,000 raptors (look at hawk counts further north whose totals have been drastically impacted by hurricanes). These are conditions that, though rare, are certainly something you can expect to eventually happen at Smith Point, probably going so far as to say this will happen within the next 10 years. This just gives way to showing how crazy today’s current season totals are. I’m no expert and I don’t have any statistics for this but am willing to bet that a 150,000+ raptor season at Smith Point is probably at least 100X more likely than having an August and September with less than 5,500 raptors recorded. That shows how rare of an event this current season is and the fascination that is associated with it.

The same facts and fascination can be said for the September total as well. Over 60% fewer raptors than the previous historic low September. That’s incredible! In my opinion, this lowest September total ever will never be broken.

Let’s go back to species that have August/September and September lows. Again, you can expect to have some poor Septembers for some raptor species in any given season and the lowest September ever for a species or even possibly 2 species in September in a season. It happens. What does not happen is having 6 species with the worst ever August/September and September totals in one season!!! That is unbelievable, made even more unbelievable with the fact that this is the 2nd worst August/September and September totals ever for an additional 4 species. So 10 species that have had at least their 2nd worst August/September and September totals ever. In one season. Words cannot describe how crazy this is or the odds of this happening either.

Of course it is very disappointing to have this kind of raptor season with such few numbers but I have nothing but admiration for this season. It’s tough, but knowing that I’ll never have a season like this no matter where I go the rest of my life makes one embrace this season in some regards. Simply incredible.

So what will October bring? Who knows with this kind of season. I had only actually intended on comparing the total number of raptors thus far with other seasons and a few species but once I started looking at other species’ September totals, hope quickly drained away for October. I thought some species were having slightly below average Septembers, not some of the worst September totals. However, now that the facts are known, October looks to be very scary and bleak, as far as numbers go. The last 10 days have seen good to great days weather-wise but have resulted in little raptor action for such good conditions and time of year. While a good number of species have their seasonal peaks in October, I expect these peaks to be much lower than normal. If the conditions we’ve had these past 10 days existed in a normal season we would’ve had above average numbers of many species for September, and possibly even a few record Septembers for some species. As you can see, this hasn’t been the case. If the raptors aren’t moving with these recent conditions one wonders why they would do so in October. Every indication points towards this being the lowest season ever, or at least one of the 3 lowest seasons ever.

However, the last two Octobers have been the best in the history of the count with over 28,000 last year and over 31,000 in 2013. Excluding these past 2 seasons, the average number of raptors in October is an enjoyable 13,300 (nearly 2.5x this season’s count thus far). So perhaps it’ll be third time’s the charm with just as good or an even better October than the past 2 seasons. Still, even with the less than stellar numbers, most people have been satisfied with the prolonged views of raptor throughout the week and diversity of species. Additionally, an Osprey that’s wintering here provides daily views over the tower bringing a fish to feed on at the motte by the tower. Passerines and non-raptors have been very slow as well but they can be great in October too. Thousands of geese should pass by the tower this month, with the first 7 Greater White-fronted Geese passing by on the 28th. No matter what happens, it’s still a great month to be on the tower!

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 26 September 2014

Still Knot Happening

Yesterday’s Count: 8!

Sharp-shinned Hawk-5

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Today’s Count: 185

Northern Harrier-2

Sharp-shinned Hawk-35

Cooper’s Hawk-2

Broad-winged Hawk-34

American Kestrel-3

Mississippi Kite-107

Swallow-tailed Kite-2

Additional Raptor Species Seen-Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Osprey, Swainson’s Hawk, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, and Crested Caracara.

Well, the Broad-wingeds are still not happening. Eight raptors were only counted on Thursday! Eight! While the last 3 hours were canceled due to thunderstorms, that number is still surprising. The most notable thing about yesterday was a flock of 52 Yellowlegs. Today saw decent Sharpie movement and another welcomed Kite movement. The long, frequent looks at what may be the last Swallow-taileds of the season was certainly a highlight. Not too many other tower highlights except for finally getting the first Common Tern for the tower this season. Robbins Park was great with 35+ Frigatebirds, the continuing Red Knot, a Marbled Godwit, 49 Black Skimmers, and a dozen shorebird species the highlights.

Tomorrow’s forecast is similar to what it’s been for this past week-Light NE winds and cooler temperatures to start the day.

Woods Update: Probably some decent movement in there but as it’s been for over a week, the mosquitoes have been absolutely terrible, peaking today.

Sanderling, Red Knot, and Semipalmated Plover

Sanderling, Red Knot, and Semipalmated Plover

Red Knot with Sanderling

Red Knot with Sanderling

Red Knot

Red Knot

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 24 September 2014

Knot Today

Yesterday’s Count: 626

Osprey-2

Northern Harrier-5

Sharp-shinned Hawk-45

Cooper’s Hawk-80

Broad-winged Hawk-301

American Kestrel-7

Merlin-2

Peregrine Falcon-1

Mississippi Kite-180

White-tailed Kite-3

Accipiters showed up yesterday, as did some Broad-wingeds. Three White-tailed Kites together, high in the air, heading west were nice to see. Other highlights included small numbers of White Pelicans and Anhingas as well as over 2,000 White Ibis, a Least Flycatcher, and 4 Scissor-taileds.

 

Today’s Count: 268

Bald Eagle-1

Northern Harrier-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-18

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Broad-winged Hawk-14

American Kestrel-2

Mississippi Kite-228

Unknown Falcon-1

Today’s count was highlighted by a lone Bald Eagle, the first of the season. Sharpies started strong but quickly diminished after the first hour. It was nice to get in one last good day of Mississippi Kites. Broad-wingeds still have not arrived in numbers here so if you missed these last few days, perhaps they’re being nice and waiting for the weekend. Other highlights included 92 White Pelicans, over 300 White Ibis, 23 Yellowlegs of both species, 2 Great Crested Flycatchers, 2 Blue Grosbeaks, and a lone Baltimore Oriole. Shorebirds have picked up in diversity in recent days and the highlight of today was a lone Red Knot at Robbins Park, my first ever for Smith Point.

This Red Knot (with Black-bellied Plover) may represent as little as the second (known/documented) record for Smith Point

This Red Knot (with Black-bellied Plover) may represent as little as the second (known/documented) record for Smith Point

 

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 22 September 2014

Slow September

I’d been waiting until there was something fairly noteworthy to post but it’s time for a recap.

9-18 (Thursday)

Rain all day-no count conducted.

9-19 (Friday)

Rained half the count. Highlights were an unexpected flock of 224 Wood Storks and a Swallow-tailed Kite

9-20 (Saturday)

Not much in terms of raptors with 117 Mississippi Kites and 65 Broad-wingeds making up most of the total. Other highlights included 12 White Pelicans, 43 Wood Storks, and over 1,000 White Ibis.

9-21 (Sunday)

A similar day to Saturday but with more Broad-wingeds and less Kites. Not much else around though Robbins Park has decent shorebird habitat again.

9-22 (Monday)

Today’s Count: 242

Northern Harrier-3

Sharp-shinned Hawk-3

Cooper’s Hawk-9

Broad-winged Hawk-173

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Peregrine Falcon-2

Mississippi Kite-51

The last 3 days have been fairly similar with light NE-ENE winds for most of the days and light raptor action for this time of year. These have also been among the hardest days I’ve ever counted raptors. While views of raptors have been frequent, counting has been rather difficult. At least today finally provided some low views of raptors. Another thing currently going on are a lot of resident or raptors that may be wintering at Smith Point or the vicinity. In fact, as many as 11 species may be doing so right now!

The worries of one of the lowest raptor seasons continue. Currently this is the lowest total ever at this point in the season in the history of the count being conducted here (full counts and starting from 8-15). There have now been 5 recent days with light winds that had a northerly component to them, 2 of which were associated with a cold front, and yet not a single one of these days has cracked 500 raptors. The foreseeable future looks like continued NE winds similar to these last 2 days. Tomorrow’s winds should be stronger so maybe that’ll start bringing the numbers. Passerines have continued to be rather disappointing but hopefully this week will produce at least 1 day with over 100 Scissor-taileds. If the forecast remains true this week will very likely be the one that determines how productive (for raptors) this season will be.

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 17 September 2014

A Little Bit of Raptor Action

The Zone-tailed Hawk has not been seen since the initial day, 9-13. While raptors are actually starting to move, the numbers have been rather disappointing. The Zone-tailed vibe is still going, but from an objective standpoint, there should have been many more raptors on the 14th and 15th. Mississippi Kites, currently totaling 2,332, will almost certainly have the 2nd worst season in the past 10 full seasons of coverage. Very rarely do Mississippi Kites get in great numbers (500+ a day) past September 17th at Smith Point. In fact, it’s (500+ a day) only happened on two days past September 17th in the past 10 full counts. Last year was a great example of later Mississippi Kite migration at Smith Point, so hopefully we can repeat some of that. Unfortunately, the short and long-term weather forecasts aren’t looking good for that to happen, though they have been variable. Likewise, it’ll be another poor season for Swallow-tailed Kites as we’re well past their peak now and can only hope to reach 10 or more for the remainder of the season. Accipiters seem to be on the slow side of things but looking back it appears that a fair number of years they don’t really start up until the 4th week of September. It has certainly felt like a slow season for raptors (averaging under 10 raptors an hour for 48 days) and if the predicted rain and thunderstorms (at or around Smith point) continue to hamper the count in the coming week, this could very well be a similar season to 2010-the worst raptor season ever at Smith Point with 24,916 raptors recorded. Hopefully that isn’t the case but fear of this being one of the 3 worst seasons for raptors at Smith Point is slowly starting to creep in.

September 14th (Sunday)

Raptors Counted: 211

Osprey-1

Northern Harrier-1

Broad-winged Hawk-167

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Mississippi Kite-41

Another great Anhinga day with over 1,000. Great wind direction and temperatures, but overcast. Other highlights included over 100 Blue-winged Teal, nearly 1,000 White Ibis, 2 Oystercatchers, a variety of shorebirds and terns, and a high Chuck-will’s-widow.

September 15th (Monday)

Raptors Counted: 126

Northern Harrier-1

Cooper’s Hawk-1

Broad-winged Hawk-83

Mississippi Kite-41

What seemed to be ideal raptor conditions (continuing cold front, no to light north winds, little cloud cover) led to the most disappointing raptor day of the season, in terms of expectations. Other highlights included a Mottled Duck, nearly 300 Anhinga, over 1,000 White Ibis, 19 Wood Storks, an Oystercatcher, 21 Eastern Kingbirds, over 100 Gnatcatchers, and 2 Painted Buntings. The first Cowbirds of the season were also seen, with a flock of 33.

September 16th (Tuesday)

Raptors Counted: 158

Sharp-shinned Hawk-1

Cooper’s Hawk-2

Broad-winged Hawk-10

Peregrine Falcon-1

Mississippi Kite-143

Swallow-tailed Kite-1

Yesterday’s numbers make it seem like it was more active than it was, with most action only in 3 hours. Around 50 Mississippi Kites crossed the bay and are the first to do that this season. A Swallow-tailed was rather pleasant too. Other highlights included 64 White Pelicans, 2 Long-billed Curlews, over 50 Gnatcatchers, 11 Blue Grosbeaks, and 11 Baltimore Orioles.

September 17th (Wednesday)

Today’s Count: 24

Northern Harrier-1

Broad-winged Hawk-23

Today’s activity was limited due to rain and thunderstorms all around and hitting Smith Point. A lone Broad-winged Kettle and single Harrier made up all the raptor action. The main highlight of the day was another great Gnatcatcher day, with over 450 passing the tower. Other highlights included 69 Blue-winged Teal, 17 White Pelicans, 29 Frigatebirds, 16 Dark Ibis, 6 Wood Storks, a Semipalmated Plover, a Great Horned Owl calling, and 2 Blue Grosbeaks. Robbin Park is starting to pick up again, at least with terns. Tomorrow’s forecast is dreadful.

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 13 September 2014

ZONE-TAILED HAWK!!!!!!

Quickly getting through the last two days, there weren’t too many highlights. Between the 2 days, only 43 raptors were counted, with an hour eliminated yesterday due to rain/thunderstorms. After that massive swallow day, just around 1,000 were seen on the following day, and a little below that on the next. Yesterday had over 200 Anhingas, over 1,000 White Ibis, 136 Wood Storks, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, 9 Yellow Warblers, and 7 Dickcissels.

Today’s Count: 264

Broad-winged Hawk-100

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-1

Cooper’s Hawk-3

ZONE-TAILED HAWK-1

Mississippi Kite-152

American Kestrel-2

Merlin-2

Osprey-1

Northern Harrier-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-1

Turkey Vulture-5

Osprey-1

White-tailed Kite-1 (post-count)

Red-shouldered Hawk-1

White-tailed Hawk-1

Red-tailed Hawk-1

Crested Caracara-1

I arrived on the tower at sunrise, not knowing how much of a cold front was actually going to hit here. Well, it was a nice 74 degrees upon arrival and didn’t get past 81 for the whole day. The NNE winds weren’t at the projected sustained 10-15 mph but instead at about half of that. Overcast the whole day. I expected an excellent passerine push this morning, but there isn’t even much worth mentioning in that department. The hope quickly shifted to raptors and by 8:30, Mississippi Kites were already moving. That number grew in the next hour, along with a lone Osprey. Anhinga started moving around this time as well. The flock started off at around 75 birds, but that number grew to 600 at once, at its peak today. They were very difficult to count as 1-4 flocks constantly went back and forth, both east and west and north and south. However, they provided an enjoyable show almost the whole day. Raptors followed this theme too as it was very difficult differentiating new kettles from old ones or migrants that were actually migrating. Just before noon a raptor with a dark, two-toned underwing flew in over the mottes and immediately drew my attention. I grabbed the camera and started shooting away as it started flying back north.

_MG_1366Fortunately, it circled back and I rattled off another set of photos before getting the bird in my scope to confirm by suspicion-A Zone-tailed Hawk!!!!!! It spent the next 10 minutes circling east of the tower, providing great views of this life bird, before eventually heading off to the northeast. This raptor is a first for Smith Point.

It’s hard to know how exactly this bird arrived here but maybe this jet stream forecast for today paves way for a theory.

Today's Jet Stream Forecast, courtesy of intellicast.com

Today’s Jet stream Forecast, courtesy of intellicast.com

As can be seen by the arrow near Austin, the line there that runs from west to east through some of the Zone-tailed’s breeding grounds. Perhaps the bird had already been moderately east of the breeding grounds, was affected by this jet stream (and yesterday’s), and then got pushed down through Smith Point from the north winds today. I’m definitely out of my league here though on this and just a possible way, among many, on how it got here.

Zone-tailed Hawk with Anhingas

Zone-tailed Hawk with Anhingas

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk-not the yellow feet and cere, as well as the finely barred flight feathers

Zone-tailed Hawk-note the yellow feet and cere, as well as the finely barred flight feathers

 

Mississippi Kites increased over the next several hours and the first Merlins of the season were seen. Other highlights today included 17 raptor species for the day, over 100 Blue-winged Teal, over 600 White Ibis, a lone Wood Stork, 3 American Oystercatchers, 86 White-winged Doves, and a Great Horned Owl. An awesome day!

Tomorrows forecast looks excellent and could produce the best Mississippi Kite day of the season as well as several hundred Broad-wingeds. The Zone-tailed could very well make another appearance too. Passerines may be excellent too. No matter what, it should be another great day!

 

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 10 September 2014

Over 60,000 Swallows!!!!!

September 8th (Monday)

Raptors Counted: 514

Broad-winged Hawk-69

Swainson’s Hawk-7

Red-shouldered Hawk-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-2

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Mississippi Kite-426

Swallow-tailed Kite-2

Osprey-2

Northern Harrier-1

Crested Caracara-1

Monday saw us get some more raptor action, with our first countable Caracara and the first Harrier of the season. Most of the raptors came in the afternoon. Other highlights included the first excellent Anhinga flight of the season, with 1,348 counted, over 1,000 White Ibis, over 8,000 swallows, over 500 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 27 Baltimore Orioles, and a Bobcat. The Anhinga were pretty amazing with flock after flock coming through, the largest of which was about 400 birds.

September 9th (Tuesday)

Raptors Counted: 26

Broad-winged Hawk-12

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Unknown Accipiter-1

Mississippi Kite-7

American Kestrel-1

Peregrine Falcon-1

Northern Harrier-1

Yesterday’s light south winds didn’t bring much in terms of raptors. Nine Crested Caracaras perched at one time in the mottes was pretty amazing though. Highlights included just under 250 Anhinga, over 700 White Ibis, 44 Eastern Kingbirds, over 5,000 swallows, nearly 500 Gnatcatchers, and the season’s first Lark Sparrow.  Robbins Park was the quietest it’s been all season.

September 10th (Wednesday)

Today’s Count: 11

Mississippi Kite-11

Additional Raptors Seen:

Turkey Vulture-5

Cooper’s Hawk-2

Crested Caracara-1

Strong southeast winds brought little raptor movement today. A daylight Chuck-will’s-widow and Marbled Godwit were the main species of interest besides the swallows.

Swallows didn’t move too heavily for the first half of the count, with ‘only’ around 2,300 counted. However, they started pouring through around 12:30. In the next hour over 8,000 swallows passed the tower! The flight line was excellent as it was right by the tower. In the next 4 hours there were over 50,000 swallows for the day, with ~48,000 seen between 12:30 and 5:30. In other terms, averaging 9,600 swallows an hour or 160 swallows a minute for 5 hours!!!! It reached 500 swallows a minute a fair number of times and peaked at around 750 swallows a minute for the day. I remained on the tower the rest of the day. Just before the sun was setting I finally had about a 10 minute window to add up the swallows tallied thus far: 59,745. I really didn’t think there was going to be another push to reach 60,000, but sure enough, as the sun was setting, another 460 swallows went by, resulting in an astounding 60,205 swallows passing the tower today!!!! A couple thousand swallow days here may seem to some to not be that outstanding, nor perhaps the many thousands seen earlier this season. The best way to put the number seen today into context is that the number of swallows seen today exceeds the 10-year average number of raptors seen at Smith Point each year (a 3-3.5 month time period)!!! An unforgettable day and the biggest day of migration I’ve ever had. In addition to the very satisfying flight line, the breakdown of swallows was almost 100% Cliff, making counting relatively straightforward. Early in the day I tried unsuccessfully to pull out a Cave in several hundred Cliff Swallows and throughout the remainder of the day Barn and Bank Swallows were very tough to pull out of the constant Cliff Swallow stream. Therefore the ‘non-cliff’ swallows are somewhat estimates as the focus was on counting the swallows.

Purple Martin-20+

Bank Swallow-75+

Cliff Swallow-60,010

Barn Swallow-100+

Not quite all of the day's Cliff Swallows, but the majority. The left 4 clickers were those individually tallied (35,697 clicks of 35,697 birds) and the right 2 clickers are of clicks pushed when 100 Cliff Swallows went by (191 clicks of 19,100 birds)

Not quite all of the day’s Cliff Swallows, but the majority. The left 4 clickers were those individually tallied (35,697 clicks of 35,697 birds) and the right 2 clickers are of when 100 Cliff Swallows went by at a time (191 clicks of 19,100 birds)

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 7 September 2014

Mega Gnatcatcher Day, Huge Dickcissel Day

Yesterday’s Count: 6

Broad-winged Hawk-2

Mississippi Kite-2

Swallow-tailed Kite-2

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-6

Turkey Vulture-4

Cooper’s Hawk-1

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Red-tailed Hawk-1

Yesterday had light to non-existent winds and brought a few raptors with it. Given that there was plenty of other coverage for hawks, and my day off, I focused almost my entire time with the Gnatcatcher show. I got up on the tower at sunrise but only 25 Gnatcatchers were seen before 8 am. After 8, they really turned it on. Many times it was impossible to click off the Gnatcatchers and you just simply wrote down a number that went by, looked up, counted, wrote a number down, repeat. A few words were mumbled to myself during this time if you know what I mean. Here’s just one line of Gnatcatcher flocks that I wrote down: 40, 60, 78, 62, 20, 36. It was one of the most amazing spectacles I have ever witnessed. Over 2,200 were tallied between 8 and 9 and then the rain started to hit, just as a heavy drizzle. I stayed out there though, as they were still moving by slowly in the drizzle. The drizzle had me concerned that the show was over, but after it stopped, things opened up again immediately. Over 150 Gnatcacther were in the air at once and this show lasted in amazing numbers for another 2 hours, before winding down to ‘just’ ~500 in the last 4 hours. The day resulted in……..

4,526 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is very likely one of the biggest, if not the biggest, one day, one site documentation of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers ever recorded in North America. This will certainly be the highlight of the season unless Gnatcatchers somehow top this day, or there is an absolute mega rarity. A legendary day.

There were several other highlights as well, including the most Yellowlegs I’ve ever seen actively migrating in flight. A total of 278 Yellowlegs were seen: 29 Greater, 21 Lesser, 228 Yellowleg species ignored due to distance or Gnatcatchers. Other highlights included 78 Anhinga, nearly 500 White Ibis, 31 Plegadis Species, 3 Upland Sandpiper, 49 Black Terns, 7 Black Skimmers, nearly 100 White-winged Doves, 2 Eastern Wood-Pewee, over 3,000 swallows, a Brown Thrasher, 22 Yellow Warblers, a Yellow-breasted Chat, 9 Blue Grosbeaks, 16 Orchard Orioles, and the season’s first 10 Baltimore Orioles.

Mississippi Kite

Mississippi Kite

Shorebirds at Robbins Park later included tho Short-billled Dowitcher and 3 Least Sandpipers

Shorebirds at Robbins Park later included this Short-billled Dowitcher and 3 Least Sandpipers

 

Today’s Count: 30

Broad-winged Hawk-20

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Mississippi Kite-4

Swallow-tailed Kite-2

Osprey-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-6

Turkey Vulture-4

Osprey-2

White-tailed Kite-1

Swainson’s Hawk-2

Red-tailed Hawk-2

Another Kite trifecta was nice, but passerines yet again stole the show. I didn’t manage to get out to the tower until 7:25 despite an early wake-up. Dickcissels were immediately on the move. The main push happened from then until about 9:15. Large flock after flock was being written down: 41, 90, 88, 110, 50, 90, 46, etc. If I didn’t take a birding trip before coming out here, today’s total would’ve been more than I’ve ever seen in my life previously, but probably comes very close. A total of 1,318 Dickcissels flew by today!!!

Additional highlights included a Marbled Godwit as one of the day’s first birds, 72 Blue-winged Teal, 37 White Pelicans, 115 Anhinga, over 250 White Ibis, 45 Avocets, 74 Greater Yellowlegs, 2 Long-billed Curlews,3 Dowitchers, 50 Plegadis Species, a Chuck-will’s-widow, 4 Great Crested Flycatchers, 150 Eastern Kingbirds, a Gull-billed Tern, over 3,000 swallows, over 400 Gnatcatchers, 56 Yellow Warblers, a Yellow-breasted Chat, 5 Blue Grosbeaks, and at least 30 Orioles.

I just

I just missed getting all of them in this photo but from left to right is a Baltimore Oriole (next to that was a female Orchard Oriole that isn’t in the picture), 2 Blue Grosbeaks, and an Eastern Kingbird. What a binocular view full of color that was!

It looks like we’re going to be in some more awesome migration throughout this week. Tomorrow looks like it’ll be another excellent passerine day and I’ll be there at sunrise on the tower. While I’d like to continue to do daily posts, it is going to be hard to do that this week as migration starts picking up. I’ll post regular updates when I can.

Yep, I’m a bit behind but here’s a recap of the past 4 days, including today.

 

September 2nd (Tuesday)

Not a single countable raptor was seen on this day, with strong S/SE winds. To make up for the lack of raptors, there’s 3 ‘hidden’ birds in this photo that aren’t in flight. See if you can find them.

3 perhaps not so obvious birds. Click to enlarge.

3 perhaps not so obvious birds. Click to enlarge.

The main highlights from the tower this day were 2 Northern Shovelers, 2 Whimbrel, over 4,000 swallows, and the start of a good series of Eastern Kingbird days, with 60.

One of 2 Shovelers that passed in the early morning

One of 2 Shovelers that passed in the early morning

At this point in the day White Ibis had passed by in 'flocks' of 5, then 4, then 3, and I was like you've got to be kidding me when I saw these 2 birds coming. Well, the birds were, as it wasn't 2 Ibis approaching, but 2 Whimbrel instead.

At this point in the day White Ibis had passed by in ‘flocks’ of 5, then 4, then 3, and I was like you’ve got to be kidding me when I saw these 2 birds coming. Well, the birds were, as it wasn’t 2 Ibis approaching, but 2 Whimbrel instead.

 

The three birds are 2 Brown Pelicans near the front of the boat and a Magnificent Frigatebird on top of the mast. What a view that must be! There was a great view at Robbins Park though.

The three birds are 2 Brown Pelicans near the front of the boat and a Magnificent Frigatebird on top of the mast. What a view that must be! There was a great view at Robbins Park later that day though.

Once again, there was a great number of Frigatebirds on, above, or around Smith Point Island, with at least 140 birds in the air at once. Other highlights were the photo ops.

Black Skimmers have been common in recent days

Black Skimmers have been common in recent days

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

A few Reddish Egrets have been hanging around

A few Reddish Egrets have been hanging around

 

September 3rd (Wednesday)

Another day without a single countable raptor, despite really light winds at times. However, in the non-countable department there were some highlights. In the distance, a Frigatebird chased an Osprey that had presumably caught a fish, and 5 Crested Caracaras, the most I’ve ever seen at one time, flew nicely over the tower.

The most I could get at one time were these 3 Caracaras

The most I could get at one time were these 3 Caracaras

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

Non-raptor tower highlight included over 500 White Ibis, 8 Avocets, 94 White-winged Doves, and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. The star was the number of Eastern Kingbirds though, with 148 passing the tower. It’s the most I’ve personally seen before.

Robbins Park had mud of the same as the previous few days.

More Black Skimmers

More Black Skimmers

These 2 American White Pelicans have been present for some time

These 2 American White Pelicans have been present for some time

Least Sandpipers

Least Sandpipers

 

September 4th (Thursday)

Counted Raptors: 6

Mississippi Kite-5

Swallow-tailed Kite-1

At least there was a little bit of movement on yesterday’s southeast winds. The Swallow-tailed came in the last 5 minutes of the count as I was starting to pack things up-a great way to end the day. Non-raptor highlights from the tower included 10 Mottled Ducks, 52 Frigatebirds, just under 200 White Ibis, over 100 White-winged Doves, 54 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (39 of which passed by in the morning flight), 140 Eastern Kingbirds, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, 51 Dickcissels (best day of the season so far), and 23 Orchard Orioles (2nd best day this season). Gnatcatchers were very much welcomed to see again, with a solid 723 for the day.

This Pectoral Sandpiper was a great way to start the morning

This Pectoral Sandpiper was a great way to start the morning

The tower's first Mottled Ducks this season

The tower’s first Mottled Ducks this season

This Semipalmated Plover took its time heading the wrong way past the tower

This Semipalmated Plover took its time heading the wrong way past the tower

Osprey

Osprey

After the count is was time to quickly pick up some year birds that’d be harder to get as things get even busier at Smith Point. I spent a quick 15 minutes at Shoveler Pond at Anahuac NWR and managed to get the bird I was looking for, Gull-billed Tern.

Gull-billed Tern

Gull-billed Tern

After this I met up with Anahuac NWR volunteer, and friend, Colin Shields to do some evening birding. We first stopped at Boy Scout Woods where I managed to get 2 lifers within 10 minutes-A Worm-eating Warbler and a Kentucky Warbler. Both of these I missed during the severe drought year in 2011 at Smith Point, as well as the recent sightings at Smith Point this past weekend. While far from good photos, they at least give a sense of the amazing, prolonged views we had of both species. Additionally, photography will always be secondary to birding for me.

Worm-eating Warbler

Worm-eating Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Kentucky Warbler

Rollover Pass had Wilson’s Plover right as we drove in and the usual great variety of shorebirds and terns. At least 9 Marbled Godwits were present. A fast haul down to Bolivar Flats before sunset resulted in picking up a single Snowy Plover before complete darkness. An array of shorebirds here as well. On the way back between Bolivar Flats and Smith Point, in various, random spots were a few unexpected surprises in the form of owls-a few probable Great Horned and Barn Owls, as well as great views of one Barn Owl capped off an excellent day of birding.

September 5th (Friday)

Today’s Count: 21

Broad-winged Hawk-1

Swainson’s Hawk-3

Mississippi Kite-14

Swallow-tailed Kite-3

Additional Raptors Seen: 

Black Vulture-7

Turkey Vulture-3

White-tailed Kite-1

Accipiter-1

Red-tailed Hawk-2

We finally got a little bit of raptor action, the obvious highlight being the trifecta of kites. Non-raptor highlights included nearly 100 White Ibis, 226 White-winged Doves, 26 Hummingbirds, 2 Eastern Wood-Pewees, a Great Crested Flycatcher, 41 Eastern Kingbirds, over 3,500 Swallows, 17 Orchard Orioles, and shorebirds. Gnatcatchers were amazing again today with over 1,000 passing by.

Shorebirds are what I’ll focus on today. An impressive 21 species have been seen at Smith Point the past 4 days, but even more impressive is that 19 species were seen today alone. There really isn’t too much habitat for them here, for a variety of species, including no sandy beaches. Fortunately, it rained for about 45 minutes today, allowing me to check up on the Robbins Park area, where I encountered this wonderful shorebird:

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted shaking off the rain

Buff-breasted shaking off the rain

One of the great views-Swallow-tailed Kite with Mississippi Kites

One of the great views-Swallow-tailed Kite with Mississippi Kites

A young White-tailed Kite

A young White-tailed Kite

Immature Mississippi Kite

Immature Mississippi Kite

Last second Swallow-tailed photo

Last second Swallow-tailed photo

After the count I was scanning the shorebirds in the field at Robbins Park when these Marbled Godwits were kind enough to drop in

After the count I was scanning the shorebirds in the field at Robbins Park when these Marbled Godwits were kind enough to drop in

Though I've never been on Marbled Godwits breeding grounds, I imagine this photo is fairly representative of their habitat

Though I’ve never been on Marbled Godwits breeding grounds, I imagine this photo is fairly representative of their habitat there

The Godwits were snatching dragonflies, like the one on the right, from mid-air. Ok, ok, I'm kidding, but they were feeding on ~1 cm black bugs throughout the grasses

The Godwits were snatching dragonflies, like the one on the right, from mid-air. Ok, ok, I’m kidding, but they were feeding on ~1 cm black bugs throughout the grasses

Hard to get enough of these guys...until you realize you're at 19 species of shorebird for the day at the point. Jeri's pond failed me, among other areas, in that regard but still produced a few things, including 19 American Avocets

Hard to get enough of these guys…until you realize you’re at 19 species of shorebird for the day at the point and could potentially hit 20. Jeri’s pond failed me, among other areas, in that regard but still produced a few things, including 19 American Avocets

 

Today’s Shorebird Numbers: 590

Black-bellied Plover-28

Semipalmated Plover-18

Killdeer-9

American Oystercatcher-23

Black-necked Stilt-10

American Avocet-21

Spotted Sandpiper-1

Solitary Sandpiper-1

Greater Yellowlegs-8

Lesser Yellowlegs-1

Yellowlegs Species-21

Willet-17

Upland Sandpiper-5

Marbled Godwit-2

Ruddy Turnstone-88

Sanderling-8

Semi/Western-1

Least Sandpiper-126+

Buff-breasted Sandpiper-1

Dowitcher Species-1

 

Woods Update: Mosquitoes are currently horrible and impossible to bird the woods the past 2 days.

Overall Raptor Number Update: If it seems that it’s been an unusually slow start for raptors this year, you’d be right. If you take out the best day from every season since 1997, (including this year) up until this point in the season (August 1st/15th-September 5th) and do the number of raptors observed per hour, this year is by far the lowest in the history of the count at 1.2 raptors per hour observed. Grant it, the count has had a new start date since 2011, but those first 14 days of August this year help raise the number of raptors observed per hour this year, rather than hurt the average number. While raptors have been slow, they certainly will be picking up soon and there still are many other species and spectacles to enjoy at Smith Point in the meantime.

Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 1 September 2014

Unique Encounters With Birds

Today’s Count: 2

Mississippi Kite-1

Cooper’s Hawk-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-5

Turkey Vulture-5

Cooper’s Hawk-1

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Crested Caracara-2

Today was mostly sunny with light to moderate southeast winds. There was surprisingly little raptor activity.

Crested Caracara

Crested Caracara

There wasn’t too much noteworthy with non-raptors today. The main highlights were 115 Kingbirds and a flock of 6 Solitary Sandpipers. I think I’ve only seen 3 or more Solitary Sandpipers in one flock only once or twice before. Other interesting sightings for the day included 3 Reddish Egrets together, 6 American White Pelicans, 50 White Ibis, 17 Avocets, 86 White-winged Doves, over 1,000 Barn Swallows, over 150 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 7 Yellow Warblers, a Blue Grosbeak and 8 Orchard Orioles. The woods were extremely quiet today, with the best birds being Yellow-billed Cuckoos and an Olive-sided Flycatcher.

Three Reddish Egrets

Three Reddish Egrets flying together isn’t something I’ve seen much of.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

I'd never seen a Yellow-billed Cuckoo perch high in a Pine before

I’d never seen a Yellow-billed Cuckoo perch high in a Pine before

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Robbins Park continues to be entertaining. From left to right: Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs

Robbins Park continues to be entertaining. From left to right: Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilt, Greater Yellowlegs

I didn't see this gorgeously plumaged underside until viewing photos of this bird. One photo alone can be tough for identifying shorebirds. This is a Short-billed Dowitcher

I didn’t see this gorgeously plumaged underside until viewing the photos of this bird. One photo alone can be tough for identifying shorebirds.  In a fair number of aspects, other than bill, this photo may scream Red Knot, but it is a Short-billed Dowitcher.

Tomorrow look like strong southeast winds with a decent chance of rain/thunderstorms.

 

Older Posts »

Categories

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers