Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 7 October 2013

7 October: A fun, but confusing, day

ssha-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThe morning started, as it usually does during the middle of the season, with Sharp-shinned Hawks, this individual going by when the sun was only just above the horizon.  All photos copyright 7 October 2013 by Tony Leukering.  Click on image(s) to see larger version(s).

Yes, confusing.  In the uplift in late morning after the morning liftoff, the soaring birds never got all that high.  There were no speck raptors on the tops of thermals.  I did not see birds vanish above.  Yet, once that first set of soaring raptors cleared out, there were almost no other raptors utilizing thermals.  Oh, the odd Broad-winged Hawk or three came in low and began elevating, but there were no large groups.  No streams of traveling birds.  No fuzzy really-high kettles.  Then, a bit after 2 pm, the time that birds usually start coming down out of the stratosphere, birds started coming down out of the stratosphere.  Did I just miss a huge gob o’ birds?!  Quite possibly.

Waterfowl made a relatively huge showing today, as I recorded TWO species of ducks, one flock each of Blue-winged Teal and Northern Pintail.  Magnificent Frigatebirds continue to show in small numbers — four today, while big migrant waterbirds made a fair-to-middling showing.  There were lots of White Ibis flocks (34), but flock size was fairly small, so the overall number was relatively low.

awpe-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresOne of the three flocks of American White Pelicans motoring by the tower today came right over, to the delight of visitors and staff (well, me) alike).

rhwo-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresOne of the earlier birds of the day was an adult Red-headed Woodpecker that I picked up already going away to the east and over or into East Motte.  However, I was almost prepared for this juvenile (discerned by the black subterminal band in the white wing patch, among other clues) to come bounding out of East Motte heading NW.  These were my first two Red-headeds of the season, despite their breeding in the vicinity of the FM 562/FM 1985 intersection only 14 miles or so north of the tower.


One of many Blue Jays on the move; sometimes, the flocks come back from the west, like this bird is doing.  Today’s three flocks of migrating Blue Jays totaled 44 birds.

The big mover among non-raptors today was Northern Rough-winged Swallow; I estimated some 2200 going west past the tower, and I suspect that my estimate is low, possibly very low.  The first Myrtle Warbler of the winter hordes of Yellow-rumpeds went past the tower today.  I got pix, but they, uh, to put it politely, aren’t very good.  The little bouncing birds put on a good show for the date:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  66

Today’s eBird checklist

The close raptor flight provided lots of great photo ops, to the enjoyment of the more-than-just-me-number of photographers present.  The below potpourri presents some of the better ones, but all are learning ops, too.

rsha-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThis was one of two juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks that I tallied as migrating today, with a third, probably local bird, not tallied as such.  Despite the simplicity of Red-shouldered/Broad-winged separation, most field guides seem not to have picked up the fact that juvenile Red-shouldereds have dark throats, while juvenile Broad-wingeds have pale throats (except, of course, for dark-morph individuals).  Note this bird’s throat color and how it contrasts with the whiter chest.  You might also note the strong suggestion of the bird’s crescent-shaped wing panels — those buff areas just inside the wingtip.

swha-ad-pefa-ad-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresAfter a long period this season in which few Swainson’s Hawks came within sight of the tower, today’s adult (one of very few so far) may presage the beginning of the late-season Swainson’s push that parallels — somewhat — that of Red-tailed Hawk.  Interestingly, it was right next to one of the four Peregrine Falcons that I found today, all of them being singles in big Broad-winged Hawk kettles.  I wonder how many slipped by me by not tarrying in a thermal with other raptors.  Oh, for more clouds!

bwha-juv-cgda-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowres-warrowI noticed a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk overhead (did you pick up on the mostly-white throat?) and it had its head down such that it appeared to be preening its chest or picking its feet or something.  I took a few pix to figure it out later (there were a lot of birds around at the time).  Upon uploading pix and editing, the solution surprised me.  Considering that even falcons often miss when going after Common Green Darners, I’ve always thought that those ponderous little Broad-winged Hawks wouldn’t have a chance.  This picture is proof positive that I am wrong again.  The arrow points to a Common Green Darner wing sticking out of the hawk’s mouth.

bwha-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-03-cropscreen-lowresAt most peninsular hawkwatches, virtually all of the migrant raptors pass by overhead, often very far overhead.  Thus, there are lots of pictures of the undersides of such birds, but very few of the topside.  The Smith Point tower and the typical Smith Point, north-wind hawk migration conspire to offer many photo ops for topside pictures, and I try to take advantage of every one.  Unfortunately, such ops have been few this year, but this juvenile Broad-winged Hawk provided one of the best such ops that I’ve ever enjoyed!


The same bird coming around…

bwha-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-02-cropscreen-lowres… and from below at point-blank range!  I cropped the original image only a very small amount, the bird was so close, and the crop was just to get a more pleasing frame.  Again, note the white throat with the characteristic central throat stripe.  Beware, both Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks exhibit that throat stripe.

coha-juv-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresNote the central throat stripe on this juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.  Note also that the head projects well beyond the leading edge of the wing, even though the wings are angled foreward in full soar.  Sharp-shinned Hawk in this posture tends to arch the hands (the wingtips) forward of the arms creating a curved leading edge on each wing (as opposed to this Cooper’s’ straight leading edge on each wing).

ssha-ad-smithpoint-10-07-13-tl-01-cropscreen-lowresThis Sharp-shinned Hawk (note the projecting wrists and small head) is interesting for a number of reasons.  First, it is the first adult Sharpie that I have noted this fall.  Second, the bird’s outer two primaries are short, still growing, so the bird is still in molt (which is on the odd side for migrating birds).  Finally, the bird has replaced only a few secondaries, and those in an eccentric pattern (rather than the typical from the outside-in progression), with the 2nd, 5th, and 6th secondaries new.  I am unsure of the status of secondary #1, but it might still be growing.  The rest of the non-tertial secondaries are older.  I know that those mavens of raptor molt will be interested, anyway, even if normal birders don’t care so much.  You might also note that the right side of the bird’s tail appears shorter than the left side.  Odd.

Raptors counted:

  • Turkey Vulture – 7
  • Osprey – 1
  • Mississippi Kite – 24 (juveniles)
  • Northern Harrier – 4
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 81
  • Cooper’s Hawk – 61
  • Bald Eagle – 1 (juvenile)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 2 (juveniles)
  • Broad-winged Hawk – 910
  • Swainson’s Hawk – 1 (adult)
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 2 (juveniles; one very pale, but not Krider’s)
  • American Kestrel – 24 (3 males, 17 females, 4 unknown)
  • Peregrine Falcon – 4 (1 juvenile, 3 adults)
  • Total – 1122

Today’s eBird checklist

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