Raptor and non-raptor count summaries September 29th to October 5th 2013

October 6, 2013 Leave your thoughts

Raptors
Well, last week I said something big would have to happen to build the Sharp-shinned Hawk numbers to anything close to average, and this is exactly what happened this week. As it turns out, there was a huge backlog of early season species, including Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, American Kestrels, Ospreys, and even Broad-winged Hawks, since this was an excellent week for all these species, including counts of about 1000 Sharpies on both October 1st and October 2nd. We were quite shocked to see kettles of Broad-wings on October 2nd, totaling 1,057 individuals, since this species’ migration is typically almost completely done by October. Indeed, this month’s total for Broad-wings is 1259, which is the most ever seen in October.  It seems like October will be a very interesting month, as these late flights of “early season” species potentially mix into the beginning of “late season” species, which have not started in any numbers. We are still awaiting the first Golden Eagle and Rough-legged Hawks of the season, and only 9 Northern Goshawks have been seen so far.
 The other raptor highlight of the week was a record flight of Peregrine Falcons. On September 30th a total 33 Peregrines were counted, surpassing the old record of 21 seen in one day (on 29 September 1997), and surpassing all expectations of what was even possible at the Ridge. The season total is now 136 Peregrines, which is also a record. It seems quite likely that even more Peregrines will fly through in the next few weeks, especially since it seems that the migration is several weeks behind schedule.

Non-raptors

This was also an amazing week for non-raptors, with a total of 64,198 counted just this week (bringing the season total to 202,405 non-raptors), including mass migration events of over 17,000 on September 29th, and over 15,000 on October 2nd. Normally we are lucky to have one or two such mass events, but this year there have been six, and there will quite possibly be more, with most of the American Robins and Rusty Blackbirds still to come. It would be an understatement to say these flights have been quite overwhelming, with thousands and thousands of birds moving by in just a few hours, especially during the first hour after sunrise. In fact, the first half hour after sunrise on the morning of October 2nd was one of the largest flights I have witnessed on the shore, and it is difficult to stress just how many birds may have been involved in such a mass event- I am quite certain that our totals for the day are just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, as this migration event deposited birds over a very broad front throughout Duluth. Strong northwest winds throughout the night pushed untold numbers of birds to the shoreline, and as the sun rose, thousands of birds could be seen streaming back inland away from the shore.  Most of the birds involved in these flights have been American Robins, American Pipits, Cedar Waxwings, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Rusty Blackbirds, and American Goldfinches.
Perhaps the star player of the week was the little American Goldfinch, surpassing all records and expectations- like the Peregrines did for raptors this week. On October 2nd, a total of 3585 American Goldfinches flew by in tight flocks, which is another record count for the state, surpassing the previous count of 1323 on 13 September 2012, and which brings this season’s total for this species to 8577, which is the best season ever. And no doubt there are even more goldfinches to come.

Peregrine Falcon juvenile
juvenile Peregrine Falcon coming right in our face at Hawk Ridge

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