Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 12 August 2014

Diversity!

Today’s Count: 25

Mississippi Kite-4

Sharp-shinned Hawk-2

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Broad-winged Hawk-4

Swainson’s Hawk-9

Red-tailed Hawk-1

White-tailed Hawk-1

American Kestrel-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-12

Turkey Vulture-4

Osprey-1

Cooper’s Hawk-1-2

Red-shouldered Hawk-1

Peregrine Falcon-1

Wow, what a day!  Today started off with WNW/West winds for the first 6 hours and then finally switched to North/Northeast winds during the last 2 hours.  What today didn’t have in numbers was certainly made up in diversity with 13 raptor species recorded.  Sharpies and a Kestrel made the first appearance this fall as well as a Peregrine Falcon 2 hours after the count ended.  It appears that both the Kestrel and Peregrine are new early dates for Smith Point.  Nature toyed around with us today as we can have 13 species, and the above mentioned early dates, but not a single Swallow-tailed Kite among them!  For raptors, the highlight was definitely the last 2 hours of the count with birds always in the air and forming mixed species kettles.  Laughing Gulls did lots of kettling today as well.  Swainson’s were present for most of the day and were frequently close to the tower.

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

This gorgeous White-tailed Hawk was just the 2nd raptor species of the day.

This gorgeous White-tailed Hawk was just the 2nd raptor species of the day

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

One of several cooper's Hawks Today

One of several Cooper’s Hawks today

Where to begin with the non-raptors?  I guess from the start as I arrived on the tower at 7:30 but wish I had been up there just a bit earlier.  Blue-gray Gnatcatchers passed by big time in the next half-hour with 195 tallied.  Remarkably, they died down almost immediately after that, but had little spikes throughout the day, resulting in 343 for the day.  Apart from Gnatcatchers there was a little bit of everything that makes Smith Point so special today, resulting in our most diverse day so far, with 65 species just from the tower.  The morning flight was pretty sweet again with swallows putting in another good showing, passerines picking up in numbers, and shorebirds.  I’ll start with some of the non-shorebird numbers.

White-winged Dove-183

Eastern Kingbird-13

Painted Bunting-2

Dickcissel-38

Orchard Oriole-3

Shorebirds were a highlight today, with 10 species seen from the tower.  Of the many sweet things associated with Smith Point, the Upland Sandpiper migration here is one of my favorites.  However, it was a bit frustrating today.  They are usually only detected when they give their distinctive call, but each flock usually only gives that call 2-3 times before they are out of sight.  With the completely blue skies this morning it made detecting birds very difficult and probably 6 or 7 times only 1 could be recorded as the flock (which usually contains at least 8 birds) couldn’t be found despite my best efforts.  While triple digits of Upland Sandpipers almost certainly occurred today, only 61 were seen.  Lots of Yellowlegs, for the tower, passed by today and not a single one vocalized.  Several other flocks of shorebirds passed by today as well as the highlight of a lone Whimbrel.  Here’s some numbers:

Killdeer-2

Spotted Sandpiper-1

Solitary Sandpiper-2

Greater Yellowlegs-1

Willet-11

Lesser Yellowlegs-32

Yellowlegs Species-13

Whimbrel-1

Least Sandpiper-12

Pectoral Sandpiper-6

Peep-4

Shorebird-2

The only in-focus Whimbrel shot

The only in-focus Whimbrel shot

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

One of the larger Upland Sandpiper flocks detected today-here's 11 of the 13

One of the larger Upland Sandpiper flocks detected today-here’s 11 of the 13

Lesser Yellowlegs were a common bird this morning

Lesser Yellowlegs were a common bird this morning

Pectoral Sandpipers

Pectoral Sandpipers

Before going on to swallows, here’s some other highlights from the tower today.  Most of these are what make Smith Point so special.

The only Roseate Spoonbill flock of the day

The only Roseate Spoonbill flock of the day

Little Blue Herons are an uncommon bird from the tower.  Here's an adult leading 4 juveniles.

Little Blue Herons are an uncommon bird from the tower. Here’s an adult leading 4 juveniles.

Ah....Frigatebirds

Ah….Frigatebirds

A total of 89 Anhinga were seen today

A total of 89 Anhinga were seen today

18 Wood Storks today

18 Wood Storks today

The classic Smith Point 'problem'.

The classic Smith Point ‘problem’.

The segue to below; Cooper's Hawk with Cliff Swallows

The segue to below; Cooper’s Hawk with Cliff Swallows

Though still probably at least a week away from certain swallow species peaks and other swallow species from even arriving in numbers, swallows continue in big numbers.  This morning had probably roughly 1,000-1,500 birds but it was the last 2 hours of the count when they became really noticeable, peaking at over 200 swallows a minute.  Unfortunately, it was during the best raptor activity of the day so a lot of species had to just be left as swallow species since Cliff, Cave (probably), Barn, and Purple Martins were all in the air at once at times.  In fact, the Martins made most of the noise despite being relatively uncommon in comparison to all swallows.  Over 7,000 Swallows passed the tower today with over 90% of these being Cliff/Cave and a few hundred each of Barn Swallows and Purple Martins.  Once the count officially ended I focused my attention on attempting to classify these swallows and remained on the tower for the next 2 hours.  Swallows finally reduced to nothing more than a trickle at that point and when the Peregrine flew by at that point it was time to call it a day.  Well, at least from the tower!

This Peregrine was an unexpected but welcomed 13th raptor species for the day

This Peregrine was an unexpected but welcomed 13th raptor species for the day

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