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Hurricane Irma Update

October 2, 2017

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service has announced that Curry Hammock State Park and Long Key State Park remain closed indefinitely and until further notice, following Hurricane Irma. The Florida Parks Service is working to quickly and safely reopen parks.

DEP updates regarding park closures will be posted in the following site:

https://www.floridastateparks.org/content/storm-information

The FKH 2017 count team evacuated the Florida Keys in anticipation of the hurricane. All counters are safe and back at home. Thank you all for your positive comments. We will be back soon. Our best wishes to the people affected by the natural disasters.

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Highlights of the First Days

September 5, 2017

A Swainson’s Warbler working the leafy floor of the Coastal Berm at Long Key. By Rafael Galvez

Although early September can be a bit slow in terms of migration, we have started our surveys at Long Key with interesting birds. Long Key State Park’s Orb Trail offers a fantastic mosaic of native habitats in a bite-sized 3km loop. At one end you start through a thick forest of Red Mangroves, then continue along a Coastal Berm flanked by dunes and a barrier of Black Mangroves.

Left: Red Mangrove forest. Right: Forest understory dominated by the finger-like pneumatophore roots of Black Mangroves.

The Coastal Berm transitions through scrub, Buttonwood stands and hardwood clusters until it curls back along an interior lagoon through a Salt Pan, which is composed of stunted vegetation tolerant of extreme hydroperiods that toggle between tidal and rain flooding, and overexposure to sun. Finally, the trail enters a tropical Hardwood Hammock.

Marc Kramer enters transect count data along the Coastal Berm at Long Key. Photos R. Galvez.

Jesse Amesbury documents birds along the stunted vegetation of the salt pan at Long Key. The ground is covered by shards of coral and shells washed up by the tides.

In the last three days, we have seen torrential rain, variable winds with gusts up to 15 km/h and plenty of sun. We have already experienced good flights of songbirds, and the start of raptor migration.

Kenny Fowler scans the skies from the hawkwatch deck looking for additional kites after the passage of back-to-back groups of Swallow-tails.

At Long Key, highlights have included several warbler species such as American Redstart, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler. Prairie Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Ovenbird have been most common, particularly the first two. Most unusual – and a favorite – has been Swainson’s Warbler.

A Swainson’s Warbler nearly disappears into the understory as it searches for insects by burrowing into the leaves. Before long, it finds insects and spiders to eat. Photos – Rafael Galvez.

Other Long Key highlights included several Chuck-will’s-widows, Black-whiskered Vireos, White-crowned Pigeons, Ridway’s Osprey, many Bobolinks and countless Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and swallows flying overhead.

The Hardwood Hammocks of the Keys are great for finding Chuck-will’s-widows during migration, if you can manage not to spook them. Photo R. Galvez.

A Prairie Warbler in flight over the hawkwatch deck, nicely captured by Jesse Amesbury.

At the hawkwatch we are off to a great start with 10 species of diurnal raptors already detected including Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, Short-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, and the first of many expected Peregrines and Merlins. We are also documenting the passage of hundreds of swallows, with nearly 1500 Barn Swallows tallied on Monday alone. We are beginning to see flocks of ducks and shorebirds moving through, and a broad assortment of wading birds including Reddish Egret and Roseate Spoonbill.

Roseate Spoonbills flying over the hawkwatch deck at Curry Hammock. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

A Short-tailed Hawk parachuting towards potential prey on tree tops surrounding the hawkwatch deck. Photo by Kenny Fowler.

Jesse Amesbury (left) and Marc Kramer (on stepladder) scan for migrants atop our new larger deck at Curry Hammock State Park.

This is just the beginning. There will be many more migrants to share in the coming weeks. Keep your eyes on the skies!

The 2017 Count Team

September 3, 2017

From left to right: Marc Kramer, Jesse Amesbury and Kenny Fowler.

September is finally here! We welcome our team of counters for the 2017 season. They will be conducting daily counts of all avian species at Long Key State Park and Curry Hammock State Park – both located in the Middle Keys of Florida – from September 2 through October 31. The counts at Long Key are conducted starting day break, when the park is still closed, along a 3-mile tract that covers four habitats distinctive of the Keys – mangrove forest, coastal berm, salt pan and hardwood hammock. The hawkwatch at Curry Hammock is open to visitors and is conducted daily -rain or shine – from 9am to (at minimum) 4pm. Ask the park rangers at the front booth how to get to the count deck when entering the state park.

Kenny Fowler was one of our official hawkwatchers at FKH during the 2016 season, and we are very fortunate to have him back for the fall of 2017. With his guidance we will have a smooth start to the season and maintain a consistent pace throughout. He has been a hawk counter at Bake Oven Knob, Pennsylvania, and is familiar with our project’s mission and HMANA protocols. He has also been an intern at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, has worked on migratory shorebirds, and has worked from North Dakota to the East Coast. His studies have taken him as far as South Africa. He is based out of Quakertown, PA.

Jesse Amesbury was an interpretive naturalist for the Cape May Bird Observatory during the fall of 2016. During that period he interacted with hundreds of visitors at the hawkwatch, gave weekly presentations about hawk identification, assisted with official counts, participated at the Higbee Beach Morning Flight Platform, and conducted Master Seawatch Identification Workshops at the Avalon Seawatch. His work experience includes monitoring for Black Rails and American Black Ducks, tour guiding, habitat restoration, and eBird reviewing.

Marc Kramer has lived in South Florida for the last decade. Since 2013, he has been one of the bird banders at the Cape Florida Banding Station in Key Biscayne. His field work and enthusiasm for birds have given him the opportunity to travel throughout the U.S., Central and South America, the Caribbean and Asia. He has worked as field biologist in Panama researching jaçanas, in Nevada with breeding shorebirds, and in Alaska with seabirds. He is a veterinarian by profession, and is founder of his own non-profit organization, Project PetSnip, for which he has operated on more than 40,000 animals.

Come visit us at the hawkwatch – Curry Hammock State Park. We have a new much larger deck. You can find our latest raptor count number on HawkCount.org.

 

Our 2017 Partners

September 3, 2017

The Florida Keys Hawkwatch 2017 season has kicked off. We will be monitoring the migration of all avian species through the Middle Keys from September 2 through October 31. We could not conduct migration monitoring without our partner organizations. Please support them.

FKH 2016 Raptor Totals

June 13, 2017

An Excellent Start to the 2016 Season!

October 2, 2016

Latest Data HawkCount

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Peregrine Falcon by Ted Keyel.

The 2016 fall migration season at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch is off to a fantastic start. This is the 19th season of standardized counts of migratory birds in the Middle Keys of Florida. We are excited to welcome a new team of talented hawkwatchers joining the FKH family. They will be counting daily at the Curry Hammock State Park deck from early September through the end of October.

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Our official counters this fall are – from right to left – Cameron Cox, Kenny Fowler and Chris Payne.

Cameron has tremendous experience as a counter in hawkwatches and seawatches at a number of locations, as well as birding and guiding throughout the U.S. and all over the world. You may be familiar with his excellent reference guide to Seawatching, Eastern Waterbirds in Flight (Peterson series). He has lived in Florida, has served in our state’s Record’s Committee and is thoroughly familiar with Florida’s avifauna. He is currently based out of Cape May, NJ. We are greatly benefiting from his expertise. Kenny Fowler has been a hawk counter at Bake Oven Knob, Pennsylvania, and is familiar with HMANA protocols. He was also an intern at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, has worked with migratory shorebirds, and has worked from North Dakota to the East Coast. His studies have taken him as far as South Africa. He is based out of Quakertown, PA. Chris Payne has been birding since childhood, frequenting his local hawkwatch at Allegheny Front in Western PA. He has worked on point counts to monitor Golden-winged Warblers, worked with horseshoe crabs, conducted surveys for Louisiana Waterthrushes and Cerulean Warblers, and has wide experience ranging from veterinary technician to invasive plant eradication. He is based out of Berlin, PA.

Visitors are welcome to stop by Curry Hammock State Park, and spend time sharing the migration spectacle with our hawkwatchers. It is a great opportunity to see many bird species, and learn how to identify raptors in flight. We count daily – rain or shine – from 9am to 4pm.

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Although we still have the month of October to continue counting, the season is already unfolding in an exciting manner. Falcons have started strong, with Peregrines and Merlins closing September with an advantageous edge over other seasons. One of the biggest highlights so far was a Snail Kite observed at the hawkwatch on September 29 – the second ever observed in the history of the project. The bird was intrepidly spotted and identified by volunteer Greg Thompson. It was skillfully photographed by Cameron Cox as it quickly flew past the count site, slipped away and disappeared.

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The second Snail Kite ever documented from the FKH count deck. Photo by Cameron Cox.

Migratory Raptor Count Totals – 2015

November 12, 2015

Final Totals 2015 sm FINAL