Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 12 September 2013

12 September: First good liftoff of season

stki-ad-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-04-cropscreen-lowresThis adult Swallow-tailed Kite was the first raptor of the day, and the first of a quite pleasant morning liftoff of nearby roosting raptors.  All photos copyright 12 September 2013 by Tony Leukering.  Click on image(s) to see larger version(s).

A most pleasant half-hour was spent by all those present on the tower this morning (which, at the time, was a visitor and me) ogling and photographing the raptor liftoff shortly before 9:30.  This was the first time this season that we got a taste of the potential of the tower for close observation and photography of raptors, with 37 birds counted by 10 am (the Swallow-tailed, four Mississippi Kites, 3 Cooper’s Hawks, and 29 Broad-winged Hawks), nearly all flying right by the tower.  The sky got high, however, and for most of the rest of the day, it was scan, scan, scan and hope to find those gliding or kettling speck raptors.  At the end of the day, a few Mississippi Kites were wandering around, so I’ll probably see them early tomorrow morning.

stki-ad-miki-juv-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThe Swallow-tailed nicely flew by a juvenile Mississippi Kite for a nice comparison shot.

miki-juv-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-02-cropscreen-lowres miki-juv-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-03-cropscreen-lowres

This juvenile Mississippi provided the single best photo op of the morning!

bwha-juv-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-02-cropscreen-lowresJuvenile Broad-winged Hawks also made some close passes, allowing close scrutiny or simple jaw-dropping wonder.

pefa-ad-smithpoint-9-12-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresThough not providing anything like a good photo op, this Peregrine Falcon was the first adult to go by this fall.

Raptors counted:

  • Turkey Vulture – 1 (the first counted for the season; it was high and far and traveling the same flight line as the Broad-winged Hawks)
  • Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
  • Mississippi Kite – 63
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 12 (juveniles)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 127 (juveniles)
  • American Kestrel – 1 (female)
  • Peregrine Falcon – 1 (adult; probably female)
  • Total – 206 (the first time this season cracking 150, much less 200)

The landbird show was, again, nearly non-existent, with just a smattering of Eastern Kingbirds, Blue Grosbeaks, Dickcissels, and Baltimore Orioles.  And, of course, the ubiquitous…

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  37

Since Winnie Burkett is traveling, I’m not sure what will transpire tomorrow, her usual day here.  It will either be quite dead without her here to encourage the birds to come by, or she’ll miss out on a spectacular day.  With the forecast, I’m betting on the former.

Today’s eBird checklist

Quizzes:  First, the Blue Grosbeak quiz from the 8th.  We have a Blue Grosbeak with significant amounts of blue plumage, but it is not cleanly blue-bodied.  The answer, as correctly presented by Nina, is a) second-year male molting into definitive basic plumage.  Like virtually all other blue birds in the ABA area, once Blue Grosbeaks are blue, they are always blue.  Adult male Blue Grosbeaks, like adult male Indigo Buntings, molt in fall from blue to blue.  However, Blue Grosbeak, like Indigo Bunting and the rest of the Passerina buntings, exhibits delayed plumage maturation.  In English, that means that males do not obtain full adult plumage in their first year.  Male (and female, of course) Blue Grosbeaks hatched this year will travel in their brown plumage to their winter quarters where, in early spring, they will initiate their first prealternate molt which will get the males some blue plumage.  Usually, most of the blue feathering brought in during this molt is on the head, sometimes with scattered blue elsewhere.  In late summer of their second calendar year, that is when they are about a year old, they will initiate, on or near the breeding grounds, their second prebasic molt, which will complete their transformation from brown grosbeaks to blue grosbeaks.  By the way, the c option (juvenile male molting into first-basic plumage) was a red herring, because, by definition, a juvenile bird is in juvenal plumage and, by definition, juvenal plumage = first-basic plumage.

Now for the raptor quiz19 September addendum:  Yuck!  Blecch!  Ptui!  What species of crow do you think that was?  Here, it’s probably American, but any crow is rare at Smith Point.  Regardless, I certainly don’t enjoy eating it.  As pointed out to me, both here and personally, I screwed the pooch in a major fashion.  As nearly everyone guessed, the quiz bird is, in fact, a Cooper’s Hawk and one with a short tail.  So, I’ve taken down the paragraph of claptrap.

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