The passage of a strong cold front overnight brought me to Holiday Beach Conservation Area on the morning of September 15th. With temps in the high 40s and low 50s and 30 kph plus north winds, it felt much more like late October! The birds felt this too, and this proved to be a fantastic day for raptor migration.
For the first hour, the dominant migrant was the SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. Nearly a thousand were tallied today by official counter Steve Kolbe. This one passed right over the tower and showed the classic punched in looked to the front edge of the wing profile.
With these quickly moving raptors, you have to 'crank' on the shutter button and hope that one or two of the many images will be sharp and a good pose. Sometimes you get lucky and the birds are doing something suprising like this sharpie! I guess when you are migrating the pressure is on, and you dont want to waste time for any unnecessary activities!!
While sharpies were the most abundant raptor, there was also a good diversity of other species. Over thirty BALD EAGLES were tallied today and this first year bird put on a particularly nice show right over the tower.
The big hope today was that BROAD-WINGED HAWKS would be moving in large numbers. As the day warmed up a few thermals started to form and the first broad-wings appeared low over the tower. Most were first year birds like this one.
It didnt take long before the first big groups of broad-wings started to appear. Soon there were swirling and streaming groups everywhere we looked. The day's tally was roughly 10,000 birds. Here is an image of part of a large group of four hundred birds that streamed right over the tower in mid morning.
For me another big highlight of the morning was the appearance of Paul Pratt with a prize from the passerine banding operation (he was helping out this morning). He pulled this stunning GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (a first fall female) out to show everyone.
I was so taken with this gorgeous little bird that I decided to adopt it as part of the fundraising activities of the Holiday Beach banding group.