Piitaistakis-South Livingstone Raptor Watch Spring 2008 Migration

The South Livingstone Raptor Count for the spring migration of 2008 has now begun. First official day of counting began on 20th February 2008. Follow the daily movement of raptors on this blog updated daily by Peter Sherrington.

Monday, May 19, 2008

May 19 [Day 84] Drizzle and light rain began as I arrived at the parking area at 0915 and persisted to 1120, but the rest of the day provided almost ideal migration conditions. The wind, which was initially S-SE and light, progressively moved to SW and then W steadily increasing in velocity from 20 km/h at 1400 to 30 km/h at 1700 and 40 km/h at 1900; cloud cover after the rain stopped was 70-90% cumulus, altostratus and cirrus giving a perfect viewing backdrop, and the temperature rose to 16C from a starting temperature of 7C. The first raptor migrant, a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk, moved by at 1258 and subsequent movement was slow but steady and involved 7 species, with 3 additional non-migrant species seen (Northern Goshawk, Golden Eagle and Prairie Falcon). At 1415, the 2nd Swainson’s Hawk of the season, a light morph adult, moved north above the ridge, and the last 2 birds of the day (and of the count) were an adult Peregrine Falcon at 1736 and a juvenile light morph Broad-winged Hawk at 1843. There were no migrant Golden Eagles and the resident pair was seen occasionally after 1700 with the male still gamely displaying. A Warbling Vireo singing at the parking area, two Chipping Sparrows on the ridge and a Barn Swallow flying over the ridge towards the west at 1535 were all seasonal firsts. The non-raptor highlight of the day, however, was a flock of 21 American White Pelicans soaring over the Crowsnest Valley south of the site at 1233 18 of which slowly made their way up the valley with much soaring finally disappearing behind Turtle Mountain at 1250. The other 3 glided back to the east. It was a good last day of the 2008 spring count! 10.5 hours (975.5) BAEA 1 (453), SSHA 1 (196), COHA 2 (39), BWHA 1 (7), SWHA 1 (2), RTHA 2 (227), PEFA 1 (6) TOTAL 9 (4204)

May summary (compared to 1994-2008 Mount Lorette count averages). We spent 19 days (234.3 hours) in the field during the month and most of the time was spent on the ridge. Four days were significantly affected by inclement weather. The days and hours are 35.7% and 48.5% above average respectively. The combined species count of 339 birds is the second highest RMERF May count (after the 460 at Mount Lorette in 1999) and is 141.1% above average. Seven species were new high May counts: Turkey Vulture 5 (+775%), Bald Eagle 21 (+124.4%), Northern Harrier 7 (+166.7%), Northern Goshawk 27 (+1412%), Broad-winged Hawk 5 (+288.9%), Red-tailed Hawk 30 (+233.3%), and Prairie Falcon 5 (+1067%). Most other species were above average: Osprey 7 (+38%), Sharp-shinned Hawk 83 (+148.8%), Cooper’s Hawk 21 (+177.4%), Swainson’s Hawk 1 (+27.3%), Ferruginous Hawk 1 (+133.3%), Golden Eagle 111 (+89.7%), Merlin 2 (+40%) and Peregrine Falcon 2 (+155%). The only species occurring in below average numbers are Rough-legged Hawk which was unrecorded in May for just the 3rd time, American Kestrel 3 (-31.1%) and Gyrfalcon which has only been recorded in May once, in 1995.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

May 18 [Day 83] Although the forecast called for winds of up to 20 km/h, for most of the day winds were gusting between 40 and 60 km/h from the W-WNW, with the temperature ranging from 15C to 20C. The sky was ideal for viewing with 30-80% mainly cumulus and cirrus cloud cover. Raptor movement was surprisingly good starting at 0953 with a juvenile rufous morph calurus Red-tailed Hawk through to a Cooper’s Hawk at 1810 which was the only adult bird seen today. Nine of the day’s 19 migrants moved between 1234 and 1400, and the total of 5 Golden Eagles comprised 2 subadult and 3 juvenile birds. The resident pair of Golden Eagles was seen soaring together with the male still displaying suggesting that she is not nesting, and is unlikely now to do so at this late juncture. A Cassin’s Vireo singing near the site at 1122 was the first of the season, and a Hoary Elfin was a new butterfly species for the site. Because of today’s strong raptor movement I am planning to watch tomorrow but the start may be delayed as I need to catch up on some sleep. 12.67 hours (965) OSPR 1 (21), SSHA 7 (195), COHA 1 (37), NOGO 1 (137), RTHA 4 (225), GOEA 5 (2981) TOTAL 19 (4195)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 17 [Day 82] This was the warmest day yet with a high of 23.5C from a low of 14C. Light westerly winds prevailed until 1100 when they progressively increased in velocity and changed to WNW after 1400: by the end of the day they were gusting to 45 km/h. Cloud cover was 60-90% mainly altostratus and cirrus all day. Apart from a juvenile Northern Goshawk at 0824 all the raptor movement was after 1300, and with the exception of 2 subadult Golden Eagles all the migrants were juvenile birds. I was greeted at the site this morning by 9 Bighorn rams, and before the wind increased the day was delightful. Vesper Sparrows were singing for the first time and male Townsend’s Solitaires were in splendid voice during prolonged aerial displays with two birds performing side-by-side on occasion. At least 4 Brown-headed Cowbirds flew high to the west over the ridge during the morning, but the most unusual bird was a male Belted Kingfisher that also flew high to the west at 0935: both species were new for the ridge top. Tomorrow will be the last day of the 2008 spring count. 12.5 hours (952.3) SSHA 2 (188), NOGO 3 (136), RTHA 2 (221), GOEA 5 (2976) TOTAL 12 (4176)

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 16 [Day 81] From a low of 12C the temperature rose to a season-high 20C at 1800, but we were spared yesterday’s high winds with calm to light winds up to 1200 then W-WNW gusting 25-30 km/h for the rest of the day. The cloudless sky was relieved by the development of cirrus cloud between 1000 and 1500 which also gave welcome relief to the eyes. There was again a good late-season count of 19 raptors of 8 species, between a juvenile Northern Goshawk at 1049 and 1854 when a juvenile male Sharp-shinned Hawk flew north with a juvenile female Prairie Falcon with considerable mutual antagonism despite their size difference. All the accipiters counted were juveniles as was the only Golden Eagle to move today at 1119: maybe we are finally running out of them. The highlights of the day were 2 Turkey Vultures each of which glided to the north low overhead: a juvenile at 1509 followed at 1648 by an adult. Two male Brown-headed Cowbirds seen by Dawn as she climbed the ridge at 1011 and 2 Violet-green Swallows feeding over the ridge at 1840 were both firsts for the site. Two Snowshoe Hares on the ridge early in the morning were in brown pelage appropriate for the rapidly melting snow conditions, and Western Whites were the first for the season and one of 5 butterfly species found on the ridge today. 12.67 hours (939.8) TUVU 2 (8), SSHA 7 (186), COHA 2 (36), NOGO 2 (133), RTHA 1 (219), GOEA 1 (2971), AMKE 2 (4), PRFA 1 (17), TOTAL 19 (4164)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

May 15 [Day 80] The temperature rose to a season-high 17C from a low of 7C, with W-WNW winds gusting between 30 and 65 km/h all day: it was like spending the day inside a hair-drier! Apart from some altostratus low to the horizon before 0900 the day was completely cloudless and finding and keeping birds flying high in the blue in the binoculars with the strong gusty winds took a lot of effort. The day’s total of 21 migrant raptors is not a bad late-season count and again the flight was dominated by Sharp-shinned Hawks and Golden Eagles, all of which were immature as were the Cooper’s Hawk and 2 Northern Goshawks. The female American Kestrel that flew along the ridge at 1820 was only the second for the season and the first since the anomalously early male seen on March 19. Passerine migration was confined to 6 American Pipits and 5 Pine Siskins, and a very noisy pair of copulating Clark’s Nutcrackers at the site at 1610 was briefly diverting. Counts of 86 Bighorn Sheep and 27 Elk were season highs, and single Green Comma and Red-disked Alpine were the first butterflies seen on the ridge this year. 12.5 hours (927.2) NOHA 1 (28), SSHA 9 (179), COHA 1 (34), NOGO 2 (131), RTHA 2 (217), GOEA 5 (2970), AMKE 1 (2) TOTAL 21 (4145)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

May 14 [Day 79] The day started out rather as yesterday finished with 100% altocumulus and altostratus cloud, N-NW winds gusting 30 km/h and a temperature of 2C. Between 1000 and 1130 north-south jet-stream cloud passed overhead giving way to 40-60% cumulus for the rest of the day as the pressure rose and the temperature reached 10C. To ensure that the illusion of spring arriving did not become too real the wind remained WNW to NW gusting to 40 km/h for the rest of the day. The only raptor to move before noon was a juvenile Golden Eagle at 1018, but after 1330 there was a steady stream of birds up to the last juvenile Golden Eagle seen by Keith below the ridge at 1840. The total of 32 migrants is the 3rd highest total for the month and the 12 Sharp-shinned Hawks is the second highest total for the month so far. Of the 17 accipiters counted all were juveniles with the exception of 1 adult Sharp-shinned Hawk, and all the 11 Golden Eagles were also juveniles. The raptor of the day was an adult dark morph Broad-winged Hawk that flew low overhead at 1756 bringing the seasonal total to 6 and setting a new RMERF spring record for the species. The bird of the day, however, was the site’s first Sandhill Crane (probably a juvenile “Greater” Sandhill Crane) that flew to the west above the Crowsnest Valley at 1355. In my experience the species is very rare in the mountains. The only obvious passerine migrants were a total of 11 American Pipits that flew to the north above the ridge throughout the day. 12.67 hours (914.7) BAEA 2 (452), NOHA 1 (27), SSHA 12 (170), COHA 1 (33), NOGO 4 (129), BWHA 1 (6), GOEA 11 (2965) TOTAL 32 (4124)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 13 [Day 78] Another 1 cm of snow fell overnight but the rest of the day was precipitation-free. Winds were W-WNW gusting 30-70 km/h all day, the temperature rose to 4.5C from a low of 0C, and cloud cover was 100% cumulus and altostratus all day. The first migrant raptor was a juvenile Golden Eagle at 0831, but the second bird, a juvenile light morph calurus Red-tailed Hawk did not appear until 1105 and subsequent movement was only one or two birds an hour until the 3rd juvenile Golden Eagle went north at 1806. The 4 Sharp-shinned Hawks brought the season’s total to 158 passing the highest ever Mount Lorette count for the species of 155 in 1999. High winds ensured that passerines were scarce on the ridge, but the total of 61 Bighorn Sheep seen in 2 groups to the north was a high count for the year. 12.67 (902) OSPR 1 (20), SSHA 4 (158), COHA 1 (32), NOGO 1 (125), RTHA 1 (215), GOEA 3 (2954) TOTAL 11 (4092)