Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 30 August 2013

30 August: Morning-flight spectacle!

ImageThe morning sun is rising like a red rubber ball. — Simon & Garfunkel.  All photos are copyright 30 August 2013 by Tony Leukering.

Winnie Burkett and I enjoyed a spectacular sunrise filled with birds!  The sun rose under thick and widespread clouds, casting pink and red on the clouds, making the spectacle of Magnificent Frigatebirds out on their morning constitutional that much more stunning!

ImageImageImageAs I was driving up to the tower, I could see a kettle of frigatebirds that Winnie was watching from the upper deck.  My first count of them was 25, but more and more kept showing up.  At first, they were too close to get more than a few in a picture with the 400 mm lens on the camera; the picture above of six was the max then.  The low red sun made the background clouds of a frigatebird right over the tower stunning.  Then, the slough of birds drifted off to the east against the purply-pink sky, and were far enough away, such that I could get 18 of the 84 birds in view at once in my field of view!  The sun was just barely up and we already had the The Bird of the Day!

While all this frigatebird action was going on, Yellow Warblers were flying by the tower, heading south, mostly, and Eastern Kingbirds were heading west.  I would wind up tallying 30 “flocks” of kingbirds totaling 384 birds, and the species was never not in sight from the tower today.  A couple of Olive-sided Flycatchers continue, or replaced previous flycatchers.  Orchard Orioles also considered last night to be a flight night, and my total of 81 was the highest this season; there was also one Baltimore Oriole.  Dickcissels moved in sizable numbers; the day’s count was of 34.

Early in the morning, when the dense overcast made it quite dark, warblers flying by not close enough just looked dark, and I recorded them as sp.  However, all specifically identified warblers today were Yellows, with one waterthrush getting by me before I found it, so it went unspecified.  This was, far and away, the best warbler morning flight that I’ve seen from the tower, with the final count of 50 Yellow Warblers actually beating the…

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  49

However, the big mover among passerines was, again, swallows, with a virtually constant stream of west-bound swallows passing at an estimated average of at least 20/minute, for a nine-hour total of 10,800 swallows.  Amazingly, Bank Swallow was the most numerous species, often outnumbering both Barn and Cliff combined.  Purple Martin numbers made a resurgence from their recent single-digit order of magnitude, with today’s tally being 36.

ImageImageImageWith so many swallows (Bank, Barn, and Cliff, from top to bottom) flying by the tower at low altitude, even a blind squirrel could have gotten a good picture or two… assuming that it could heft the camera.  My photographic mantra is “take enough pictures, eventually you’ll get a good one.”

Ah, but I’m not here to count passerines in morning flight.  The raptor show, well… it was at least interesting.  Somewhat unfortunately, before the raptors got up (usually after 9 am), the skies had cleared and the air heated up creating excellent conditions for raptor migration… but exceedingly poor conditions for us poor raptor counters.  The first hour with countable raptors was the 10-11 am hour and the birds were already very high.  The first kettle was off down the Point and very distant, but was anchored by a juvenile White-tailed Hawk.  A blurry speck among the few Broad-winged and Swainson’s hawks eventually sharpened to become the first Sharp-shinned of the season.  The second kettle, this one right in front, was also quite high, but was a lot closer, so Winnie and I could actually somewhat enjoy the four Swallow-tailed Kites among the buteos!  From there, however, with the exception of another juvenile White-tailed Hawk joining the first way down the Point, ’twas a matter of scanning and scanning for dark blips among the sea of blue sky.  I have no doubt that a bunch o’ hawks got by without us seeing them, producing the day’s underwhelming total.

Raptors counted:

  • Swallow-tailed Kite – 4
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 3 (juveniles)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 39 (1 adult)
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 25
  • Total – 74

Big waterbirds did not put on a show, though the White Ibis count did crack 200.  Interestingly, unlike most of the rest of the season, adults accounted for the vast majority of individuals (83.8%).  American Avocets went by in flocks of 1, 8, and 6.  Finally, the number of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visiting the feeders continues to climb, with at least 20 around today (and probably quite a few more).

Today’s eBird checklist

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