Posted by: jasonbojczyk | 13 September 2014


Quickly getting through the last two days, there weren’t too many highlights. Between the 2 days, only 43 raptors were counted, with an hour eliminated yesterday due to rain/thunderstorms. After that massive swallow day, just around 1,000 were seen on the following day, and a little below that on the next. Yesterday had over 200 Anhingas, over 1,000 White Ibis, 136 Wood Storks, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, 9 Yellow Warblers, and 7 Dickcissels.

Today’s Count: 264

Broad-winged Hawk-100

Swainson’s Hawk-1

Sharp-shinned Hawk-1

Cooper’s Hawk-3


Mississippi Kite-152

American Kestrel-2



Northern Harrier-1

Additional Raptors Seen:

Black Vulture-1

Turkey Vulture-5


White-tailed Kite-1 (post-count)

Red-shouldered Hawk-1

White-tailed Hawk-1

Red-tailed Hawk-1

Crested Caracara-1

I arrived on the tower at sunrise, not knowing how much of a cold front was actually going to hit here. Well, it was a nice 74 degrees upon arrival and didn’t get past 81 for the whole day. The NNE winds weren’t at the projected sustained 10-15 mph but instead at about half of that. Overcast the whole day. I expected an excellent passerine push this morning, but there isn’t even much worth mentioning in that department. The hope quickly shifted to raptors and by 8:30, Mississippi Kites were already moving. That number grew in the next hour, along with a lone Osprey. Anhinga started moving around this time as well. The flock started off at around 75 birds, but that number grew to 600 at once, at its peak today. They were very difficult to count as 1-4 flocks constantly went back and forth, both east and west and north and south. However, they provided an enjoyable show almost the whole day. Raptors followed this theme too as it was very difficult differentiating new kettles from old ones or migrants that were actually migrating. Just before noon a raptor with a dark, two-toned underwing flew in over the mottes and immediately drew my attention. I grabbed the camera and started shooting away as it started flying back north.

_MG_1366Fortunately, it circled back and I rattled off another set of photos before getting the bird in my scope to confirm by suspicion-A Zone-tailed Hawk!!!!!! It spent the next 10 minutes circling east of the tower, providing great views of this life bird, before eventually heading off to the northeast. This raptor is a first for Smith Point.

It’s hard to know how exactly this bird arrived here but maybe this jet stream forecast for today paves way for a theory.

Today's Jet Stream Forecast, courtesy of

Today’s Jet stream Forecast, courtesy of

As can be seen by the arrow near Austin, the line there that runs from west to east through some of the Zone-tailed’s breeding grounds. Perhaps the bird had already been moderately east of the breeding grounds, was affected by this jet stream (and yesterday’s), and then got pushed down through Smith Point from the north winds today. I’m definitely out of my league here though on this and just a possible way, among many, on how it got here.

Zone-tailed Hawk with Anhingas

Zone-tailed Hawk with Anhingas

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk-not the yellow feet and cere, as well as the finely barred flight feathers

Zone-tailed Hawk-note the yellow feet and cere, as well as the finely barred flight feathers


Mississippi Kites increased over the next several hours and the first Merlins of the season were seen. Other highlights today included 17 raptor species for the day, over 100 Blue-winged Teal, over 600 White Ibis, a lone Wood Stork, 3 American Oystercatchers, 86 White-winged Doves, and a Great Horned Owl. An awesome day!

Tomorrows forecast looks excellent and could produce the best Mississippi Kite day of the season as well as several hundred Broad-wingeds. The Zone-tailed could very well make another appearance too. Passerines may be excellent too. No matter what, it should be another great day!




  1. Wish that I had been there! The only Zone-tailed hawk that I have ever seen was breeding pair out by Marathon. They flew so close that you could see their eyes; and my, what huge feet they have!

    Mira M. Pellerin

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