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Merlins and Bluster

September 20, 2011

The promised blustery weather finally arrived, and changes in raptor migration were certainly noticeable. Peregrines, Merlins and Ospreys moved through in good numbers, and Broad-wings finally gave a noteworthy push.

The raptor totals for today were:

Osprey – 28
Mississippi Kite – 2
Northern Harrier – 3
Bald Eagle – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Cooper’s Hawk – 3
Broad-winged Hawk – 30
Merlin – 32
Peregrine – 24
Totals – 124

Winds were mostly out of the east with gusts up to 30km/h, averaging at about 15km/h throughout the day. Migration early in the day seemed to follow two strategies: Birds flying into the wind – directly towards the ocean, and birds far inland following a more westward trajectory.

Several Ospreys early in the day followed the first strategy, flying directly overhead and S-SE towards the ocean (remember that the Keys trend towards the southwest) in powered flight. Two Mississippi Kites seen during the first half-hour appeared to do the same; they moved so quickly that they were soon out of sight and might have readjusted along the shoreline. Some Peregrines appeared not to have a problem with simply flying out over the water.

As the day progressed, Merlins began moving low along the interior; 25 went through by midday. Taking advantage of the tailwinds, they did plenty of gliding barely above the trees. Some early Peregrines followed the same line, except they tended to use uninterrupted powered flight, allowing them to cover ground very fast.

During the final hours of the day, nearly all birds moved along the interior at high altitudes, including the Merlins. The first noteworthy “kettle” of the season formed during the day’s last hour, composed of 21 Broad-winged Hawks.

Weather forecasts call for similar weather during the coming days, with increased potential for thunderstorms. You won’t be hearing any complaints from us down here so long as the Merlins keep moving through!

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