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Ospreys Overhead, When Merlins Attack, and Shorebird Surprises

September 17, 2012

By Ted Keyel

Our third day of the 2012 Florida Keys Hawkwatch season had a beautiful start.  Storms passed around us, but we only had a few raindrops.  The birds certainly did not seem to mind too much. We counted 75 individuals for the day across 6 raptor species, with an additional two (Turkey Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk) that were seen, but did not migrate.  Ospreys continue to have a great showing, with 46 counted for the day, putting us up to 191 for the season.

One of the Ospreys that flew directly over the hawkwatch today.  Photo by Ted Keyel.

However, the real show-stealer for the day was 1 of the 12 Merlins. We were fortunate enough to watch it streak out, grab a Barn Swallow, begin to eat it on the wing and continue on to the South!  It was really amazing (unless of course, you are the Barn Swallow). Speaking of swallows, we had another nice flight, including: 927 Barn Swallows, 5 Northern Rough-winged Swallows, 7 Bank Swallows, and 140 that were just too far to identify down to species.

Along the Atlantic coast, a nice variety of shorebirds fed in the wrack line and mudflats. The highlight was a young Piping Plover which was banded in Nebraska (!) earlier in the year. There were also 5 other Piping Plovers, 50 Semipalmated Plovers, 6 Black-bellied Plovers, 1 Wilson’s Plover, 75 Least Sandpipers, 40 Sanderlings, 20 Short-billed Dowitchers, 20 Ruddy Turnstones, and 10 Willets.

Nebraska-born Piping Plover present for the second day.  Photo by Ted Keyel.

Another treat for the day was a perched, male Baltimore Oriole seen for a couple minutes from the hawkwatch. We had some Great Blue Herons fly close by as well. The 15 White-crowned Pigeons which migrated by were nice, but a mere pittance compared to the 60 (!!) we had on our morning walk at Fat Deer Trail.

Full Raptor Count details for the day:
46 Osprey
7   Northern Harriers
2   Cooper’s Hawks
12 Merlins
7   Peregrine Falcons
1   Short-tailed Hawk

Our season totals are:
8     Turkey Vultures
191 Osprey
31   Northern Harriers
11   Cooper’s Hawk
2     Red-shouldered Hawks
55  Merlins
29  Peregrine Falcons
8     Mississippi Kites
3     Short-tailed Hawks
12  Swallow-tailed Kites

Finally, thanks to Tedor and Marguerite Whitman for joining us for the day.  We look forward to seeing you both again soon.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 18, 2012 12:09 am

    Very nice on the Merlin attack! Last year, I was so excited counting raptors I do not recall noticing the passerines and shorebirds, something I certainly will pay attention to this year. I am very excited about this year and look forward to joining the group.

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