Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 29 August 2013

29 August: A Tale of Two Flights

ImageA bird of the early morning, or Flight #1, this juvenile Cooper’s Hawk buzzed the tower at, obviously, eye level, providing a great view and photo op for all those present, which, actually, was just me.  All photographs copyright 29 August 2013 by Tony Leukering.

It wasn’t the best of times, but it was far from the worst of times.  (Apologies to Charles Dickens.)

Flight #1 — This was the unsuspected-by-me nice hit of early-morning passerines, with the swallow show being particularly frenetic.  During the first four hours, I conducted a few two-minute counts of swallows each hour to provide data upon which to base the days swallow estimated totals.  Counts were conducted without aid of binocular, because it would have been impossible to bin any birds and still be able to count all of the swallows passing.  Thus, I included a large number of unidentified swallows in my totals.  However, Flight #2 interfered with my plan to do this for all hours, so I had to just wing it for the second four hours.  The swallow flight took typical shape for swallow flights, with Barn Swallows being the predominant swallow early on, then with Cliff Swallow overtaking it.  Unfortunately, because I wasn’t expecting this flight, when I got to the tower at 8 am, the transition between Barn and Cliff was already in progress, though Barns still held the edge in numbers.  All swallows were heading west into a WSW breeze.  Unlike previous swallow flights this fall, it is now late enough in the year that Bank Swallow has become a major player.

Estimated swallow totals:

  • Bank Swallow – 550
  • Barn Swallow – 1750
  • Cliff Swallow – 3000
  • swallow sp. – 4500

Eastern Kingbirds also took advantage of the winds, flying into the wind in what is far-and-away the largest kingbird flight of the season:  94.  If I’d gotten to the tower earlier, a triple-digit count would have been a gimme.

ImageImageThese two pictures of Eastern Kingbird illustrate the difference between adult and juvenile kingbirds (of all species, even those two long-tailed species).  Adults (as in the upper bird) has notched outer primaries — that is, the inside web is indented, creating a vaguely hooked appearance.  The fact that this adult has only two notched primaries and that the outermost primary’s notch is fairly shallow, indicates that it is a female; male’s have at least three notched primaries and an obviously longer notch on the outermost.  Juveniles, however, sport no notching on their primaries, as illustrated by the lower bird.

Other passerine species moving today included Dickcissel (four), Orchard Oriole (25), and the first Baltimore Oriole of the season.  Oddly, at least, I thought it odd, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher did not take part.  Nor were there Passerina buntings or blackbirds of any stripe.  Waterbirds, well, waterbirds apparently stayed home, as did White-winged Doves.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  12

Flight #2 — With winds out of the WSW, drifting more southerly, and with fairly clear skies, I was expecting to see few raptors, because few would be moving, but also because those that might be moving could get up high enough to escape detection.  However, that was not to be, as various and sundry large birds, particularly those wonderful Magnificent Frigatebirds, pointed out raptor kettles all afternoon.  Then it was just a matter of scanning intently near and around those big birds to find those kettles, producing the best flight of the season!  Interestingly, at the start of the day, the season total for Swainson’s Hawk was 98, while that of Broad-winged Hawk was 65.  With the latter moving in large numbers, the single Swainson’s in the first kettle was one too few to keep Broad-winged Hawk from getting to 100 for the season before Swainson’s!  Now, of course, Broad-winged will never look back.

Raptors counted:

  • Osprey – 2
  • Mississippi Kite – 45 (including a solid flock of 29 near the limit of binocular detectability)
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 3 (juveniles)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 63 (all juveniles)
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 16 (14 juveniles, 2 unaged)
  • Total – 129

Today’s eBird checklist

ImageOne of four Dickcissels flying by the tower.  This one can easily be sexed as a male, thus aged as an adult, by the black in the throat.

ImageOne of the 25 Orchard Orioles tallied today, with 13 kicked (including this one) out of the scrub behind me by the local juvenile female Cooper’s Hawk!

ImageImageFinally, there were many more Ruby-throated Hummingbirds around today, causing, at least periodically, some amicable sharing of feeder space.  Of course, there was still lots of territorial squabbling, as exemplified by the above adult male and the other Ruby-throated, which is not an adult male.

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