Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 3 October 2013

3 October: My biggest day of the season!

brpe-ad-juv-smithpoint-10-03-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresThese Brown Pelicans went low right past the tower early this AM, two adult-like birds and three juveniles.  All photos copyright 3 October 2013 by Tony Leukering.  Click on image(s) to see larger version(s).

Well, it took me until the last hour of the day (3-4 pm), but the second bird of the hour made the day my biggest day of the season.  Of course, Tad, who has counted only nine days, has two better days.  ‘Twas quite an enjoyable day, once birds finally got their tails out of bed shortly after 10 am, and the company was lively and appreciated.  It was particularly appreciated once it became apparent that the Sharp-shinned Hawks were going to be traveling the SE route (east past the tower and across the Bay to Bolivar) and the Broad-wingeds were going to take the high-and-distant-out-front route typical for them on SE winds.  The extra spotters enabled me to snag most of the low Sharpies while I concentrated on the distant buteos, and the hawk-like eyes found me a couple of those high-and-distant Broad-winged kettles.  Thank-you!  Additionally, the day provided the first double-digit tally of Peregrines for the fall here.

As has been typical for far too long, now, landbird migrants were nearly absent, with just two Eastern Kingbirds representing the Tyrannidae; no Olive-sideds, no empies, no Great Crested.  Are we going to get Western Kingbird this year?  Last fall, I scored five species of Tyrannus (the kingbird genus), but I’m stuck at two this year.  A single Dickcissel, five Blue Grosbeaks, and a few west-bound flocks of Blue Jays rounded out the sum of the passerine migrants.  Well, except, of course, for the

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  29

ssha-juv-smithpoint-10-03-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThis juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk is easily identified as such.  The streaking on the chest and down the middle of the belly (rather than barring) lets us know the age, while the jutting wrists and fairly small head give us the species.  Yes, the tail is rounded, but that field character is nowhere near definitive, particularly this way — a fairly large percentage of Sharpies have rounded tail tips.  Had this bird’s twin or doppelganger just come through before 4 pm, I’d have cracked three digits for a Sharpie count for the first time this season.  I’m expecting huge gobs of ’em this weekend into early next week.

Raptors counted:

  • Turkey Vulture – 2
  • Osprey – 1
  • Northern Harrier – 2 (juveniles)
  • White-tailed Kite – 1
  • Mississippi Kite – 45 (juveniles)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 99 (juveniles)
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 23 (juveniles)
  • White-tailed Hawk – 1 (juvenile)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 1314
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 4 (juveniles)
  • American Kestrel – 17 (2 males, 14 females, 1 unknown)
  • Peregrine Falcon – 10 (3 adults, 6 juveniles, 1 unknown)
  • Total – 1519 (beating my previous season best by six)

Today’s eBird checklist

I am well behind on posting to the blog, due to the hawk-ID workshop that I taught last weekend and the loss of Internet access at the restaurant in Smith Point that I use.  Hopefully, that access problem has been solved (I’m all the way up at the Anahuac library posting this, so I don’t know if it is or not) and I’ll be able to catch up over the next few days.

However, speaking of the next few days….  Though it’s been wiggling around a bit, the forecast for the next few days looks quite nice, and it will, hopefully, stay that way.  Saturday is supposed to have light winds in pre-frontal conditions, which may give us a good Peregrine flight.  Saturday night is forecast for NNW at 10-15 mph with, it seems, any rain coming early in the night.  This sounds like a good recipe for a good to really good nocturnal migration of landbirds (and others).  Sunday’s overcast (40% chance of rain) and NNW at 10-15 mph will, if there is little or no rain, produce a great to superb raptor flight and, probably, piles of diurnal landbird migrants, such as Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and swallows (of which, Northern Rough-winged is currently the most abundant).  Sunday night’s eventual clear skies and lighter winds from the NNW, should produce an epic flight of nocturnally-migrating passerines and other things.  If you can get out at night and have a modicum of quiet in your neighborhood, listen for the chips, seeps, tsips, and other vocalizations coming from the night sky.  The continued NNW wind on Monday under blue skies and light wind speeds should produce an immense flight of raptors, though we’ve probably already missed the vast majority of Broad-winged Hawks during the way-too-much-time-under-a-high-pressure-dome doldrums that produced relatively very little in the way of raptor migration at Smith Point.  However (and that’s a very big HOWEVER), the light winds and blue sky will allow the birds to get very high, very early, so I’d suggest coming early.

New, more-difficult quiz:  What are these two birds, both of which are raptors and were noted today at the tower?  I’ll get to providing a solution to the Roseate Spoonbill quiz and this one soon.  Hopefully.  We’ll see how much of my days the next 4-5 raptor flights take up.



  1. Merlins. I don’t think the tails are long enough for Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned. And the wings look a little too pointy-ish (er, narrow) for the other two.

    • Uh-oh. My 2nd guess is Sharp-shinned since no Merlins were seen today. After that I have no idea.

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