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Diversity and Numbers

September 28, 2011

By Rafael A. Gálvez

An excellent day at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch! With 13 species of raptors and a total of 691 birds – no one is complaining, except perhaps our necks.

Today’s NW winds were sure a contrast from the ESE winds of previous days, bringing the migrants directly overhead. Most of the birds were flying quite high, and with up to 80% cloud cover, we had to work hard to catch birds as they cloud-hopped.

Highlights included a high number of Peregrines and Broad-wings and an abrupt influx of Accipiters. A Red-tailed Hawk immature cruised southward – apparently the 4th recorded for the species in the 12 years of this count.

We had the pleasure of being joined by new volunteer, Julie Reagan. Julie was excellent in helping Jim and I spot the birds, in tallying them on the counter and the forms, and in taking many great photographs of most of the species sighted.

Below is one of Julie’s great photos – a “kettle” of Anhingas. I would imagine few hawkwatches have to contend with Anhingas the way we do – and you’d be surprised at how easy it is to turn one into a Peregrine or a Bald Eagle, depending on the distance. Most people don’t realize what excellent fliers and soarers Anhinga’s are. At this time of the year, the species congregates and partakes in short-distance southward movement. Some of these flocks may near 100 birds.

Our total of 691 raptors included:

Osprey – 36
Mississippi Kite – 2
Swallow-tailed Kite – 1
Northern Harrier – 18
Bald Eagle – 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 40
Cooper’s Hawk – 46
Broad-winged Hawk – 346
Red-shouldered Hawk – 9
Red-tailed Hawk – 1
American Kestrel – 21
Merlin – 4
Peregrine Falcon – 163
Unidentified raptor – 2

Top-most: left to right, a Bald Eagle and a Broad-winged Hawk, two of 163 Peregrines seen today, and a Cooper’s Hawk. Photos by Julie Reagan. Below is a composite of raptors I have put together from Julie’s photos. See if you can guess what species they are.

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