Foul Weather Flyers and Waterspouts
By Rafael A. Gálvez
It was another good day of migration for Merlins. In fact, it was their best day yet this season. Ospreys were also on the move, with 38 birds tallied. Surprisingly, Peregrines were a relative no-show, with only 4 birds counted. Kestrels are slightly on the rise, with 4 birds – topping our daily high for this season.
Although it was overcast and gray, with 100% cloud cover throughout the day, rain never truly materialized except during the last 15 minutes of the watch, and very light drizzle during the first hour. The sky however, looked menacing and dark; it was certainly fitting for a good Merlin push. The winds varied from 1 to 4 km/h out of the SSE, yet shifted the last 2 hours out of the west and intensified up to 6 km/h.
Today’s total of 92 birds included:
Osprey – 38
Northern Harrier – 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 1
Cooper’s Hawk – 1
American Kestrel – 4
Merlin – 43
Peregrine Falcon – 4
The threat of rain was ever-present throughout the day, with some serious stratocumulus clouds and several waterspouts offshore, in the Atlantic Ocean. Above is a photo of a waterspouts spotted from the hawkwatch deck. Southernmost Florida, particularly Florida Bay and the Middle Keys are considered the waterspout capital of the world. A waterspout monitoring project conducted from May to September of 1969 documented 400 waterspouts in this area. There are several documented cases attesting to the damaging power of these columns of twisting water. When associated with the type of thunderstorm activity we had last night, they are considered “tornadic waterspouts” – in other words, they are tornadoes over water. Their wind speeds have been documented exceeding 160 miles per hour. There have been several documented cases of waterspouts crossing from Florida Bay, over the Keys landmass, into the Atlantic; or of waterspouts turning into tornadoes as they reach land and vice-versa.
What birds would be flying in weather like this? Apparently the Merlins and Ospreys did not mind. Several were seen flying out directly over the water. Jim has coined the term “Foul Weather Flyers” on the Merlins, which seem undeterred – even more likely – on days like this. Nighthawks also continued moving this morning in sizable flocks, again flying out directly into the Atlantic.
Counters today included Jim Eager, Tedor Whitman, and Rafael Galvez.
Visitors today included Glen and Joan Irwin, Terry Thompson, Monica and Frank Woll, and John Castano.
Tomorrow we are expecting scattered thunderstorms with a high of 90F. Chance of rain 50% with winds out of the south at 5-10 mph. Based on this forecast we can expect the flight path to stay towards Florida Bay, which will push the raptors away from the site making for a challenging day.