Posted by: 3pomjaeger3 | 4 November 2013

4 November: Gloomy, few raptors, then drizzle

awpe-smithpoint-11-04-13-tl-1-cropscreenAmerican White Pelicans don’t fly very early all that often, at least past the tower.  So, when the first flock of the day (11 of the 12 birds shown here) went bay shortly after the post-time-change-start time of 7 am, I thought that I might be in for a big pelican day.  Unfortunately, the gloomy skies, “wrong” wind, and late-in-the-season date conspired to keep that from happening.  All photos copyright 4 November 2013 by Tony Leukering.  Click on image(s) to see larger version(s).

At the peak of the season in late September and early October, a hawk counter at the tower can do reasonably well with today’s conditions (overcast, stiff E wind), but at the end of the season, not so much.  I spent the entire day in my hoodie (are you surprised?) and watched the occasional hunting Cooper’s Hawk (at least two were present) dash across open areas an a bit more often noted a migrating raptor.

coha-ad-smithpoint-11-04-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresThis adult Cooper’s Hawk passed right by me on the tower heading to the ‘Sparse Oak’ behind and to the east of the tower.  You can see its left wing has been damaged, probably by one of those reckless dashes into shrubs or some such that are so typical of Cooper’s Hawks.  S/he seemed none the worse for wear, though.

pefa-juv-smithpoint-11-04-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresNo, it’s not an artsy photo… well, it’s not ‘just’ an artsy photo of the southern snag in East Motte.  The snags in that motte are so attractive to raptors for perching, that it behooves the counter, volunteer, or visitor to check them every once in a while.  During the real doldrums of mid-afternoon today, I thought that I better check them again and, lo and behold, there was a juvenile Peregrine perched there!  Since I recorded a juvenile Peregrine yesterday and I did not see it anywhere near well enough to determine whether this bird was the same or different, I did not count today’s Peregrine.

Raptors counted:

  • Northern Harrier – 5 (2 adult females, 3 brown birds)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk – 7 (3 adults, 1 juvenile, 3 unknown)
  • American Kestrel – 7 (5 males, 1 female, 1 unknown)
  • Total – 19

Particularly on slow raptor days, it’s a good idea for the counter to keep focused by looking at and for other birds.  So, I scanned the Bay, looked at all of the various regular top-of-tree perches, scoped way out on the Point, and did all of it many, many times.  This activity, while rarely producing a raptor, did produce a good variety of other beasties, including a few duck flocks, a couple of shorebird flocks, and a flock of five Franklin’s Gulls that might otherwise have gotten by me unseen.

grye-smithpoint-11-04-13-tl-1-cropscreen-lowresOne of a flock of six Greater Yellowlegs that passed by the tower early in the morning.  The bright yellow legs, and dull and gray underwings get us quickly to one of the two yellowlegs, while the long, thick, and slightly upturned bill with a pale base make the ID as Greater a gimme.  However, particularly for those that attended Saturday’s outrageously successful (thanks to the many and very varied bird species that flew by) Birds In Flight ID workshop, this flock flew by in the typical manner of Greater Yellowlegs:  a fairly dispersed flock, with birds keeping fairly large inter-bird intervals.  Lesser Yellowlegs fly in flocks more like smaller shorebird species do, in tighter, more coordinated flocks with smaller inter-bird intervals.  In fact, the line in flocking style between the two species of yellowlegs is the one separating typical flocking styles of smaller and larger shorebird species.  While Lesser Yellowlegs do not fly in the very tight, highly coordinated flocks typical of Sanderlings, Dunlins, and most shorebird species smaller than that, the difference between the two yellowlegs species is usually fairly obvious.

Landbirds were, again (!), notable by their nearly complete absence.  A couple of interesting-looking things that were too far away for me to be comfortable identifying, three Yellow-rumped Warblers (that I did not hear call and flew in bad light, so was unable to determine subspecies), and a single meadowlark of undetermined species just about started and completed the list of landbird migrants today.  Yesterday’s immature male Black-chinned Hummingbird was still present, and there were two Ruby-throateds (one immature male, one unknown-age female) and a female Archilochus that didn’t stay put anywhere near long enough for identification.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher tally:  0

The most notable waterbird event was the flock of 12 Herring Gulls of mixed ages passing somewhat high over the tower.  In two falls here, I’d not ever seen such behavior out of the species here.  Finally, though I did not see it, I heard one brief yodel from a Common Loon somewhere on or over East Bay.  Shortly after it started drizzling (2:20 pm), I called it quits for the day.

Today’s eBird checklist

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