Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 22 August 2014

Huge Gnatcatcher Day!!!

Today’s Count: 17

Sharp-shinned Hawk-2

Cooper’s Hawk-3

Broad-winged Hawk-6

Swainson’s Hawk-6

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-15

Turkey Vulture-12

White-tailed Kite-2 (post-count)

White-tailed Hawk-2 (post-count)

Today started off with very light south winds that quickly changed to no wind at all. When that happened, a few things really started to move and it was constantly giving up counting one species to count another. At first it was nice with the swallows, with about 1,000 in the first 45 minutes and a fair number of gnatcatchers mixed in. Soon it became apparent that this was going to be a great gnatcatcher day and swallows were quickly given up on when this started to happen. Before going on to that though, there were 3 Orchard Orioles, 9 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, a Painted Bunting, 11 Dickcissels and 17 Yellow Warblers this morning.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Other non-raptors also occurring during this time included 6 Anhinga, over 250 White Ibis, 42 Wood Storks, over 150 White-winged Doves, 10 Common Nighthawks, and today’s comedy, provided in the pairing of these shorebird species:

A Lesser Yellowlegs leading 9 American Avocets over the bay

A Lesser Yellowlegs leading 9 American Avocets over the bay

 

Back to the gnatcatcher counting, they began to move like I’ve never seen before.  There were layers of gnatcatchers moving in multiple flight paths.  For example, you’d have 15-40 in one group right at the tower height and 3 more groups layered up higher than that in the air!  Not long after that raptors were starting to move for the day with the excellent thermals available and so that took up time to scan for them.  In fact, during the peak of all this gnatcatcher movement, which was also the peak raptor movement of the day, whenever I was doing a full scan for raptors I was probably missing 50-100 gnatcatchers per scan! Then some Wood Storks trickled in and those had to be triple scanned through.  About this time gnatcatchers were starting to do a term I’ve never associated with them-stream. However they weren’t streaming by in here’s one group, and here’s another following it behind 5-10 seconds later. It was just a constant line of gnatcatchers moving, like swallows but in lesser numbers.  They didn’t stop moving until just before 12, and when they finally did they ended very abruptly.  Time to look at the clicker and…….

1,856 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers!!!!!

Simply amazing! I’ve never seen anywhere close to this number before in one day. This total doesn’t include the birds I had to let go due to scanning for raptors and counting them, so at least 2,000 gnatcatchers passed over today, if not hundreds more. Often the largest groups of the day were the highest ones, containing 50 or more birds, so missing some of those adds up pretty quickly. Even before today in talking with many people, no one has quite heard of the numbers of gnatcatchers that Smith Point regularly gets. If anyone knows of any other site, or Smith Point itself in prior years, that has had a 1,500+ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher day, I would love to hear about it.

Swallows remained fairly steady, but slower than in the morning resulting in at least 4,000 for the day. Very few Purple Martins and Bank Swallows were able to be picked out when I had the chance. I went to Robbins Park and the tower this evening. Most notable were a few Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, 58 Ruddy Turnstones, 56 Least Sandpipers, and 2 of each White-tailed Hawks and Kites, both of which I hadn’t seen during the count. Great Horned Owls were calling again tonight. Yesterday they were calling in winds constantly gusting to 20 mph, so it’s nice to know that one can still hear owls even on really windy days. Grant it, these are the most frequently calling owls I’ve ever encountered, and the area near the tower is open quite a bit.

Ruddy Turnstones

Ruddy Turnstones

White-tailed Kite

White-tailed Kite

Tomorrow’s forecast is similar to today’s and it would be lovely to get another big gnatcatcher day, but who knows. Next week the best days are looking like Monday and Tuesday if we avoid the rain.

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