For a breakdown of daily counts for the 2012 FKH fall season, visit HawkCount.
By Rafael Galvez
The fall of 2012 was another exceptional count season at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, and this would not have been possible without the involvement and enthusiasm of a great group of counters and volunteers. Thank you for your participation!
Above, FKH October regulars in sync.
From left to right, Bob Stalnaker, Gabe Cenker, Ted Keyel, Rafael Galvez and Charles Caudill.
Colleen and Charles Caudill counted at the hawkwatch nearly daily from October 7 through October 27. This is their second year of extended volunteering at FKH. They are the nicest and most dedicated people you could ever hope for at a hawkwatch. They are fantastic at spotting raptors at a distance, and few birds slip by them unnoticed.
Colleen and Charles once again proved to be reliable through thick and thin; when we were swamped with birds and visitors they were a central part of the team, and when long days asked for call-outs a mile out over the glary ocean, they were persistent and enthusiastic. More importantly, they are great and thoughtful company and a lot of fun. We will miss them and cannot wait until they return for the 2013 season. Above top left, Charles is keeping look over the “backside;” above right, Colleen is scoping out distant raptors. Above, lower photo from left to right, Ted Keyel with Colleen and Charles.
For their second FKH season in a row, Dave, Jenn and Gabe Cenker participated at the hawkwatch for ten days during early October while they camped out at Curry Hammock State Park. However, Jenn and Gabe returned days later to witness the big Peregrine flights. The Cenkers are our favorite hawkwatching family, with young Gabe (age 9) at the heart of their enthusiasm and passion for raptors. All three are excellent spotters and lots of fun to be around. If you get Gabe talking about Peregrines and the migratory flyways, you will be impressed with his knowledge and love for raptors. Above, he is at the hawkwatch explaining to the Florida Keys Sunschoolers about migration, and how to use the anenometer. Gabe is also the founder of the Young Birders of Brevard, a group dedicated to showing kids how awesome birding can be. We could not be more grateful about having them share their passion and dedication with us. We’ll be sure to see them return to FKH next year.
Tedor Whitman has been such a great asset to FKH since 2011! Tedor has got to be – hands down – one of the most reliable counters ever. Storm or scorching sun, he has made it on time to FKH, each and every Monday morning, driving 2 hours from west Miami to the Middle Keys, ready to count and with the most enthusiastic attitude. We are all the happier when he is joined by Marguerite Hunt at the watch, and enjoy the mixture of downright serious and fun conversation with them. We love to hear about Tedor’s work at ZooMiami, and look forward to his increased participation in bird migration studies in South Florida. Above, top photo, Tedor and Marguerite at the “backside,” enjoying a quick break; above, bottom photo, Tedor gets serious when he spots a distant incoming raptor.
Bob Stalnaker has a great passion for raptors, the natural world and conservation. He first participated at FKH during 2011, and returned to stay with us 10 days this season. We are grateful for all his contributions, and the many impassioned conversations we shared. Bob is a Peregrine lover at heart, and we are proud it was one of his great photos that we used to announce the site’s seasonal world record for the species. I shared a number of memorable mornings doing Long Key State Park transect surveys with Bob. We hope to see him again soon at FKH and hope his plans with Florida raptors gain momentum. Above, left, Bob scanning the sky; to the right are two of his Peregrine Falcon photos taken this season.
Ruth and Carey Parks joined us for nearly a week, just in time for the big Peregrine flights and the seasonal world record. They had joined us for the 2011 season and it was great to spend more time with them and share some great migration moments. We also loved to learn more about their work with the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife and the monitoring of Burrowing Owl burrows, and their adventures with the Caloosa Bird Club. We know they will remain great friends of the hawkwatch and can’t wait until they return.
Catie Welch spent nearly a week with us during early October, helping find birds during morning transect counts, counting at the hawkwatch and engaging with kids during incoming field trips. It was great to work with a young Floridian with a genuine interest in avian research, and with broad-ranging experience. We learned much about the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow and her field work with that imperiled species, and about her work guiding birding groups with regional organizations. Catie is a trouper, and helped us monitor migration during a week of challenging flights by very distant birds. Above, left, Catie helps a group of kids spot birds and fill-in forms; at right, she is monitoring the sky for distant migrants.
Allison Miller participated with us recently for 4 days. It was a great opportunity for us to learn more about the Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey in Apopka, Florida and all the great work she’s has been doing, flying rehabilitated raptors and engaging young people in educational programs. Although we were starting to get the first effects of hurricane Sandy when she spent time at the hawkwatch, she arrived right on time for the flights of American Kestrels. We wish Allison all the best as she finalizes her falconry training, and hope she returns to FKH for more hawkwatching. Above, Allison excelling at distant and close-up work with raptors. At left, Allison impressed us with her raptor ID skills despite us having mostly far migrants during her stay; at right, she is flying Archer, an immature Red-shouldered Hawk at the Avian Reconditioning Center.
Robert Qually participated at the hawkwatch several times this fall, often bringing rehabilitated raptors from the Marathon Wild Bird Center. While visitors to the hawkwatch may have many opportunities to see distant migrating raptors, a close encounter with a bird in the hand can make a huge difference in solidifying people’s appreciation for them. Robert brought Sweetie the “Cuban” American Kestrel, and Red (photo above), a gorgeous Red-shouldered Hawk. Although Robert volunteers at the Wild Bird Center, working with birds in the hand, it has been nice to see him sharpen up his identifications skill on distant birds, and to see him observe his “lifer” Swainson’s Hawk.
Ryan Mong was one of the best surprises this fall season. He came to us unannounced, as he rode his bike up and down the Florida peninsula and did impromptu primitive camping along the state’s natural areas. He paid us a lengthy visit during September, and went off to continue his adventures soon after. But it is apparent he could not stay away from raptor migration in the Keys. It was great to see him return for a prolonged period, just in time for the big Peregrine flights. We greatly benefited from Ryan’s help at the watch during most of October! We enjoyed his company and insightful conversations; he asks some of the best questions. It was sad to see him leave to continue his journeys, and we wish him the best of luck as he ventures to New Zealand. At the end of the season, as he returned to his home state, he texted me, “Back on the Oregon coast and I keep expecting to see a Frigatebird.” It’s tough to leave the Keys. Above, left, Ryan is holding Sweetie, the sparveriodes American Kestrel; at right he is finding that sweet spot for distant raptors moving high beyond the Atlantic coast – one of Ryan’s specialties.
Karen Riedle and Mary Butterfield returned this season to help us at the watch during the first days of October. They are certainly no strangers to FKH, and it was great to have them among us, helping out during a field trip of homeschoolers from the Keys, and spotting distant birds. Although their stay was a bit shorter than we might have wished, it was great to catch up with them and hear more about their contributions to education and conservation. Above left, Mary scanning along the bayside; at right, Karen helping kids spot birds.
Sue and Darrel Hartman counted with us from October 24 through 27, and it was a great pleasure to have them back at FKH for a second year. During 2011, Sue and Darrel were initiated into the project on our highest count day ever, October 20, when 3423 raptors (excluding vultures) migrated through the site. They once again drove down from Gainesville to join us. By contrast, during their visit this season, out daily raptor totals were below 3 digits. However, during their last day, October 27, we counted 401 American Kestrels! You never know what you will experience at the hawkwatch! The Hartmans are below, left, with Ted Keyel.
Holly and Myron Peterson were among the first folks to inquire about volunteering for the 2012 season, and were among the last standing at the watch through season’s end. Holly and Myron (above, right) are arduous supporters of raptor migration sites in their home state of Minnesota, and sponsor the HawkCount pages of the West Skyline Hawk Count and Hawk Ridge sites. They counted with us for 8 days in November, and I am certain their experience in the Keys was quite different from Minnesota: Hundreds of Turkey Vultures graced the skies daily, along with many Broad-wings and Swainson’s Hawks; Short-tails were a presence over the site on a regular basis. We tremendously enjoyed their kindness and patience, and shared great conversations and many memorable birds. We hope to see them back soon!
We were fortunate this season to have the help from many volunteers. I don’t want to forget to mention Captain Bob Lewis, from Crystal River, and Clifton Kahler from Polk County, who joined us the second week of October. Michelle Davis of the Cape Florida Banding Station, and a great friend joined us towards the end of October, taking precious time away from her hectic banding schedule; we much appreciated the help. It was also great to have Mariel and Angel Abreu help at the watch for a couple of days during big flights; they have helped promote the project successfully through the web. Mark Hedden and his wife Nancy, great supporters of the hawkwatch visited briefly, but have been important in ensuring the long-term life of this project. Mark has brought the support of Florida Keys Audubon Society, and it was a pleasure to have Elizabeth Ignoffo, president of the organization, visit the site. A big thanks to Kevan and Linda Sunderland, who always enliven the site during their visits and have contributed so many amazing photographs to the project. Above, two of their photographs, a Cooper’s Hawk at left, and a Merlin at right.
Jim Eager counted at FKH during the first month of this season. He has been involved with the hawkwatch since 2008, and the revival of this project would not have been possible without his efforts. Not only has he been an official counter on a daily basis, but he has helped transfer the project’s historical data into an electronic format, and was instrumental in bringing the Space Coast Audubon Society on board as a major sponsor for 2011/2012. Jim’s enthusiasm for this project has done volumes in bringing positive attention to the Florida Keys Hawkwatch across the state. He has been at the core of the project’s growth and we look forward to his future contributions.
Above, top left, Ted Keyel, official FKH counter proves he is one of the kids;
top right, Ted shows his wingspan is bigger than a Frigatebird’s.
I counted at the hawkwatch the full season, from September 13 through November 11. Another counter dedicated the entire season to the preoject, and that was Ted Keyel, originally from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. Ted’s broad-ranging experience, not only as a well-traveled birder, but as a hawk counter and research technician brought seriousness and fresh enthusiasm to the project. His previous work at the Montclair Hawk Watch (New Jersey Audubon) and Chavarillo, Mexico (Pronatura Veracruz) as a counter and bander added knowledge of North American raptors migrating along the Atlantic Flyway, as well as species of western and tropical distribution, such as Swainson’s and Short-tailed Hawks. He played an important role as we expanded the scope of monitoring at Curry Hammock beyond raptors, supplying much excitement and insight about all migratory bird species. Managing always to be on top of passing birds, and simultaneously taking excellent photos while holding clickers, Ted proved to be quite the multi-tasker. This season, he also wrote blog articles for FKH, helped enter historical data into HawkCount, and participated in ample discussions about the future of the project. I hope him the best in his future endeavors with raptor research, and hope he finds many interesting species in his future travels through Germany. We will keep a spot for him in the Keys.
We finalized the season with a round of fun events, including field trips and our first annual Hawk Talk – a round-table discussion about raptors. It was a homecoming weekend of sorts, with many friends attending the site and sharing big flights of vultures and Swainson’s Hawks. Jeff Bouton, raptor extraordinaire, is a great supporter of FKH and the Leica Marketing Manager – no surprise that there are “red dots” all over this post. Leica Camera provided binoculars and telescopes for volunteers and visitors to use throughout the count season. Joe Barros, president of Tropical Audubon Society, visited with his lovely wife Helen, and Ron and Elane Nuehring, president of the Miami Blue Chapter (North American Butterfly Association). Photos above also include Begoñe Cazalis and Juan Valadez.
A big thanks to the hundreds and hundreds of visitors, friends, supporters, field trips and the curious that stopped by the hawkwatch this fall, and to all those who donated their time and money in exchange of a t-shirt. We could not have done it without you!
By Rafael Galvez
By the end of the day we had tallied 5714 Turkey Vultures, 1398 Broad-winged Hawks, 56 Swainson’s Hawks, a late Mississippi Kite, many Northern Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls, many Cave and Cliff Swallows, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers and much more.
With the blustery winds associated with Hurricane Sandy finally giving way to calmer skies, and the cold front finally making its way to the Keys, a new set of floodgates swung open and kept us very busy today at FKH.
As I was doing my morning transect counts at Long Key, it was evident this day would differ from previous counts. Although the warbler diversity was next to null – with dozens of Palm Warblers flying overhead and making landfall nearby – the discovery of 3 Grasshopper Sparrows feeding on the damp pneumatophore floor of the mangrove forest indicated the beginning of a memorable day. Soon, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher was seen flying over the Atlantic and making its way towards shore as it continued flying on a southwestward direction. As I scanned the ocean, I noticed American Kestrels flying low over the water towards the southwest, and tallied 12, some of which were nearly a kilometer out. This is when I noticed the first Northern Gannets. After a 15 minute scan from the shoreline, I counted 16 gannets all heading SSW. A group of ducks flew by and I was able to get them on the scope and get good looks; these were 10 American Wigeons. By this point I was quite happy. One of the rewarding aspects about conducting standardized transect counts at Long Key State Park is the opportunity to help the park supplement its list of recorded bird species. This season, we have added nearly 20 bird species to the park’s list of vertebrates, and this morning, I knew we had added 3 more: American Wigeon, Northern Gannet and Grasshopper Sparrow.
I had to cut my Long Key survey short when I noticed a blanket of Turkey Vultures flying overhead. Hundreds were streaming by in determined flight southwestward, following the key’s land chain. I also noticed several Swainson’s Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks in the mix. I knew these birds would soon be getting to Curry Hammock, so I hurried out of Long Key. I briefly stopped at the tower and estimated well over 2000 Turkey Vultures passing by.
At Curry Hammock, Ted Keyel and Michelle Davis had already been keeping tally. Gannets and Lesser Black-backed Gulls – both firsts for the season – had been flying by over the Atlantic. It did not take long for the large streams of Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged Hawks to finally reach us. By the end of the day we had tallied 5714 Turkey Vultures, 1398 Broad-winged Hawks, 56 Swainson’s Hawks, a late Mississippi Kite and many other species.
Raptor Count for Oct-30-12:
Turkey Vulture – 5714
Osprey – 14
Bald Eagle – 2
Northern Harrier – 29
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 40
Cooper’s Hawk – 54
Red-shouldered Hawk – 2
Broad-winged Hawk – 1398
Short-tailed Hawk – 1
Swainson’s Hawk – 56
American Kestrel – 46
Peregrine Falcon – 5
Mississippi Kite – 1
Total – 7366
2012 Season totals to date:
Black Vulture- 2
Turkey Vulture – 7758
Osprey – 1430
Bald Eagle – 17
Northern Harrier – 822
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1889
Cooper’s Hawk – 690
Red-shouldered Hawk – 20
Broad-winged Hawk – 7235
Swainson’s Hawk – 101
Short-tailed Hawk – 32
Red-tailed Hawk – 2
American Kestrel – 3126
Merlin – 571
Peregrine Falcon – 3817
Mississippi Kite – 98
Swallow-tailed Kite – 40
Unknown Accipiter – 1
Unknown Falcon – 5
Unknown Raptor – 29
Total – 27,685
Non-raptor observations (Long Key and Curry Hammock, highlights):
American Wigeon – 10
Northern Gannet – 68
Lesser Black-backed Gull – 33
American Avocet – 1
Wilson’s Plover – 1
Cliff Swallow – 125
Cave Swallow – 29
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher – 2
Grasshopper Sparrow – 3
and much more!
All photos by Ted Keyel.
By Rafael Galvez
American Kestrels kept migrating southward throughout the day. We kept the site open more than an hour later than usual and the kestrels just kept moving! Our day’s total for the species was 401. All photos below by Ted Keyel taken October 27, 2012.
There has been much concern about the American Kestrel over recent years. Below is an excerpt from the Raptor Population Index 2011 Analysis on eastern North American population trends for the species:
The trends in counts for this species continue to raise alarms as numbers remain lower than those recorded during the 1980s and 1990s and no population rebound is evident. One small positive note is the stability in counts since 2005 at many sites and over the long-term in Quebec. Despite these glimmers of hope, there is cause for conservation concern for this species across the region.
The American Kestrel is having its best season at the Florida Keys in the last decade. To date, we have tallied 2775 individuals of the species for the season. Although this is well below the 4338 tallied during 2001, this season shows a marked improvement over the last nine years’ totals.
Today, we experienced a stellar day of kestrel migration, with many birds flying low near the observation platform, giving us fantastic looks. Although the completely clear skies held the potential for difficult spotting conditions, the blustery winds (gusting up to 32 km/h) kept all birds low and easily visible. And the kestrels just kept on shooting through, averaging roughly 1 a minute, but often coming 3 or 4 at a time.
Along with the 435 American Kestrels tallied on October 20 of this year, these have been the highest single day counts for the species at the Keys for nearly a decade. Today’s flight was truly a remarkable sight!
Raptors on the Move: Kestrels, Mississippi Kites and Swainson’s Hawks – and many American White Pelicans!
By Rafael Galvez
An excellent day at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch. The highlight was 435 American Kestrels for the day (photo above by Ted Keyel). Of course another triple-digit Peregrine Falcon day – 201 – added to the excitement. Our total of 2899 birds is no surprise; birds were migrating non-stop throughout the day. We kept the site open an hour and a half later and harriers were still flying by; we tallied 139 for the day! And who would have thought we would still be seeing Mississippi Kites this late in the fall; we tallied 10! Swainson’s Hawks have started moving through, and today was our best tally for that species this season to date with 14.
Totals for October 20, 2011:
Turkey Vulture – 1050
Osprey - 24
Bald Eagle - 1
Northern Harrier - 139
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 287
Cooper’s Hawk - 87
Red-shouldered Hawk - 3
Broad-winged Hawk - 590
American Kestrel - 435
Merlin - 52
Peregrine Falcon - 201
Unknown Raptor - 2
Mississippi Kite - 10
Short-tailed Hawk - 4
Swainson’s Hawk - 14
Total - 2899
2012 Season Totals to date:
Turkey Vulture – 1881
Osprey - 1379
Bald Eagle - 15
Northern Harrier - 738
Sharp-shinned Hawk - 1754
Cooper’s Hawk - 609
Red-shouldered Hawk - 17
Broad-winged Hawk - 5575
Red-tailed Hawk - 2
American Kestrel - 2240
Merlin - 518
Peregrine Falcon - 3745
Unknown Accipiter - 1
Unknown Falcon - 5
Unknown Raptor - 24
Swallow-tailed Kite - 40
Mississippi Kite - 95
Short-tailed Hawk - 28
Swainson’s Hawk - 27
Total – 18,693
The morning kicked off with an amazing flight of large bands of American White Pelicans, totalling 1797! Photo by Ted Keyel.
We thoroughly enjoyed what must have been one of the highest visitation days at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, and it was fantastic to see novices and experienced staring at the sky filled with birds. It was great to see new and old friends at the deck. We much enjoyed spending time with Gina and Adam Kent and Angel and Mariel Abreu. Kevan Sunderland found the day’s first Mississippi Kite, and Linda brought us brownies! It was great to see John Haire and Carl Edwards at the site, and to have the falcon-eyes couple Tom and Caryn pay us another visit. Other visitors included Caroline, Tom, Milo, & Quincey Defreze, Kevin Leigh, Bernie and John Cooper, David and Jean Rennado, Grace and Lou Jimenez, Philip, Emrich, and Zack, Thomas Gilfoy, Bill and Nancy LaFramboise, Jane Simmons, Debie L. Smith and Paddy Cunningham with her great Birding Adventures group.
And how could have we pulled of this day without the fantastic help of our core team of counters, which today included the amazing Colleen and Charles Caudill, Ryan Mong, Ted Keyel, and Rafael Galvez. Thanks also to Ruth and Carey Parks and Bob Stalnaker, who left yesterday but were extremely helpful throughout the week.
And who would not want to be in the Keys now, with so many exciting birds around? Heck, there is even a Fork-tailed Flycatcher down the road!
By Rafael Galvez
A Bullock’s Oriole was found today at Long Key State Park, in the Middle Keys. The male bird was located while we conducted our morning transect count along the transitional zone on the south coast of the park. The bird was perched within a strand of mangroves and buttonwoods, and partly concealed within the canopy. I was able to observe the bird for roughly 3 minutes, after which it flew towards the northeast, into thicker mangrove habitat. As the oriole flew it gave a grainy, full-bodied and relatively high peeht call. My immediate reaction after the bird flew was to do a quick field sketch. Unfortunately, the only blank surface I had was the back of a business card (left graphite drawing below).
Upon return to the lab at midday, I was set on redoing my sketch on larger paper and to add color before seeing any photographs or referring to any field guides. Unfortunately, my watercolors were 2 hours away in Homestead, so I opted for stopping at the “Qwik Stop” convenience shop in the town of Layton, hoping they might have color pencils or markers for sale. Interestingly, they only had a full line of L.A. Girl eye liner in an assortment of yellows and browns. Below (right) is the first illustration I have ever done using eyeliner as my medium.
Bob Stalnaker was with me during the transect count. I had been looking at the bird for a while and literally yanked him into the tight mangrove nook so that he could get photos with his 400mm lens. The bird was fidgety, yet Bob managed to snap a few shots – distant but revealing – before the bird took off (below).
Migration has toned down a bit recently and we are no longer getting the “thousand” daily Bobolink flights. Palm Warblers are everywhere, and the first Yellow-rumped Warbler of the season showed up today.
There was also a Clay-colored Sparrow at Long Key today, and the first Savannah Sparrow of the season was seen last week at Curry Hammock.
The second Scissor-tailed Flycatcher of the season was at Long Key today, yet the plentiful Eastern and Gray Kingbirds of a couple of weeks back are nowhere to be seen.
Other interesting recent sightings at Long Key have included a Sedge Wren and a Least Flycatcher.
One of the highlights of this period in fall migration in the Keys is watching groups of migrating Great Blue Herons. Several dozen may be seen during a single day flying southward from Long Key and Curry Hammock. The birds are often squawking in a distinctive manner while in flight. This photo was taken at Curry Hammock by Kevan Sunderland.
Long Key Morning Flight and Transect Counts
During the fall of 2012 season, in addition to the traditional monitoring of raptor migration from Curry Hammock State Park, the FKH project has also been conducting morning surveys at Long Key for migratory birds.
The flights of migratory birds over Long Key are monitored for 1.5 hours before sunrise. The birds are tallied by listening for their flight calls before daybreak, and by observations of flying birds at first light from an elevated deck at the Keys Marine Laboratory in the town of Layton, overlooking Florida Bay and 36.25 km SSW from Flamingo.
Starting from roughly 7:30am, a transect count for migratory birds is conducted at Long Key State Park. The park offers some of the most diverse adjoining stopover habitat in the Middle Keys. The transect takes us through a mangrove community, a transitional coastal zone, a xeric coastal berm, and a rockland hammock.
Many interesting observations and calls have been seen and heard. We’ve witnessed a number of notable migration events over this area. A future full report after season’s end will go into detail about what we’ve documented. Below is a small sample to illustrate the role that some of the Middle Keys play during fall migration.
On September 21, 2012, between 6:20 and 8:20 am, a conservative estimate of 1500 migratory passerines were tallied from Long Key. Although nearly half of these were Bobolinks, almost all the rest were warblers, many of which were making land fall into the thin mangrove edges adjacent to our observation deck.
With strong winds up to 15 km/h blowing out of the SE, it was interesting to see such large numbers of song birds arriving to land from the northwest. It could be assumed these were birds compensating for wind drift and deciding to “backtrack” into the wind at day break, not wanting to be caught over open water as the sun rose. These could have been birds that had flown over Cape Sable, but considering the strength and direction of the winds, they could have drifted from much further east. From greatest to least, in terms of numbers observed that morning, the species included American Redstart, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Prairie Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Palm Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Northern Parula, Eastern Kingbird, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated Warbler and Blackburnian Warbler.
By Rafael Galvez
At 14:49 today October 16, 2012, the Florida Keys Hawkwatch tallied the 3220th Peregrine Falcon for the count season! By the end of the count day we had tallied 3242 Peregrines! To our knowledge, this is the highest count for that species ever recorded during a single migration season anywhere in the world; and we are still counting!
As October set on, we were still being bombarded with blustery winds out of the ESE. As the winds began turning out of the ENE, we started getting back-to-back triple-digit Peregrine Falcon flights. First on October 5th with 113, then 237 on the 6th, 155 on the 7th, 230 on the 8th and 318 on the 9th. Finally, on October 10th we tallied an amazing 651 Peregrines. The highest documented single-day Peregrine migration count in the world had been set also at Curry Hammock on October 11, 2008 with 638 birds; we managed to beat that. The photo of Peregrine Falcon above taken by Bob Stalnaker.
Last year, our final seasonal count for Peregrines was 2976. This took us to the highest number of Peregrines recorded in the U.S. during migration, but shy of the 3219 season world record for the species tallied at Kekoldi, Costa Rica during the fall of 2004. Today, we were thrilled to surpass that excellent count from Costa Rica with the new record of 3242 by day’s end. With 28 more days in the season, it is difficult to predict at this point how many Peregrines we will manage to tally by November 13. This speaks loudly to conservation and rehabilitation efforts for a species that was nearly extirpated throughout much of the continent just a few decades back.
As much of a pleasure as it has been to witness all of these Peregrine Falcons migrate, it would not have been possible without so many people volunteering the valuable time. Tedor Whitman and Marguerite Hunt have been very reliable, coming every Monday to help out. Catie Welch spent a week counting with us and added to the overall enthusiasm and morale of the group. Dave, Jenn, and Gabe Cenker came down for 10 days and spotted many of the furthest birds. However, that wasn’t enough, and Jenn and Gabe came back to help out for another few days. We have also been very fortunate to have the eagle eyes of Charles and Colleen Caudill for the past week and a few more days to come. Ryan Mong joined us for multiple days in September and made it back in time for our great day today. Bob Stalnaker has been counting with us a week and sharing his passion and great photos with us. Jim Eager counted during the first portion of the season, and his dream of many Peregrine Falcons passing by has become a reality. Jeff Bouton, with his enthusiasm and vicarious contributions, has urged us above and beyond. We could not be more thankful to the great staff at Curry Hammock State Park! This will not be a full thank you list, for it would take many pages and there will be time for that by the end of the season. Finally, Ted Keyel has been a fantastic addition to the full-time counting team; his seriousness and dedication are showing their fruit in this day’s results. We have worked hard for these birds. LET MORE PEREGRINES COME. Good hawkwatching to all!