Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch

Corpus Christi, Texas (Nueces County)

Fall Hawk Watch
September 2004 Reports

All reports are posted daily to the following newsgroups: 
BirdHawk, TexBirds, BirdChat, TexasBirdChat

So, just how do we count all those hawks!?

September 01, 2004:

Greetings all! Joel files today's report:

Mississippi Kite...3
N. Harrier.........2
Broad-winged H....20
Red-tailed hawk....2
Am. Kestrel........2
Total 33

September 02, 2004:

Short and sweet today from Scott:

Am. Kestrel........1
Total 1

Scott also reports a liftoff of 100 Anhingas from the river valley, and a Northern Parula on the hill. 

September 03, 2004:

Greetings all! Dane brings today's report, and has he got a extra special treat for everyone - the season's first butterfly list! Thanks, Dane! Glad to see you guys aren't getting washed off the hill yet from the frog-strangler rains we've had throughout the area this week (and supposedly into the weekend). First, the hawks:

Broad-winged : 6
Swainson's : 2
Mississippi Kites : 9
Cooper's : 1
Osprey : 1
Total: 19

Now, the extra goodies! The butterfly list:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail, Orange Sulphur, Little Yellow, Ceraunus Blue, Gulf Fritillary, Julia, Bordered Patch, White Peacock, Tawny Emperor, Queen, White-striped Longtail, Sickle-winged Skipper, Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Laviona White-Skipper, Sachem, Clouded Skipper.

Dane promises to keep us all updated on any new additions. Thanks, Dane; it's awesome to have a butterfly man at the helm, too!

As far as dickie birds (non-raptors), Dane has the following report:

Yesterday at Polliwog Pond: Warblers included Mourning, Canada, Black+White, Common Yellowthroat, Chats, Yellow, Hooded, Northern Waterthrush. Flycatchers included Yellow-bellied, Acadian, E. Wood-Peewee. Also young male Indigo Bunting.

Come on Raptors!

Here, here, Dane! Bring on that chocolate and let's keep the chocolate karma flowing! And to our friends in Florida; be very safe and may Hurricane Frances pass quickly and with as little damage as possible. You're all in our thoughts and prayers. 

September 04, 2004:

Greetings all! Wet, wet, wet. Storms rolled throughout the area today, shutting down the watch for two and a half hours, but Joel says a few more hawks made it on the rolls even so.

Broad-winged: 2
Northern Harrier: 1
Unknown accipiter: 1
Total: 4

Joel also noted some extra goodies for the dickie-bird list, including a fulvous whistling duck down by the pond and a male indigo bunting flitting around the watch site.   

September 5, 2004:

Greetings all! The rains north of us have had some good effects on the watch, even though it's also causing the lower roadways by the river to flood over from runoff upriver once again. Scott brings us today's report:

A good day with 16 raptor species if you include our residents as well (Harris' Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Black and Turkey Vulture)

Migrant totals:

Osprey: 2
Swallow-tailed Kite: 3
Mississippi Kite: 32
Northern Harrier: 2
Cooper's Hawk: 1
Broad-winged Hawk: 88
Swainson's Hawk: 6
Red-tailed Hawk: 4
American Kestrel: 4
Peregrine Falcon: 3
Crested Caracara: 2
Unknown Buteo: 3
TOTAL: 150

Dane and I arrived at the park early this morning to try and find yesterday's Vermilion Flycatcher. No success, but we found two Green Kingfishers. They were fooled into thinking the flooded roadway was a new river and were diving into it, luckily with no injury. Also, a couple of massive Anhinga kettles streaming across the sky, totaling roughly 7,000-8,000!

Thanks, Scott! Very nice day, indeed! A cold front (a "real" one that should actually lower the temps somewhat) is due in any day now and we're really looking forward to that for many reasons. Should make for another nice push of raptors in addition to keeping temps in a more reasonable level for the counters.

September 6, 2004:

Greetings all! Scott's got some great numbers for us today! Check out his report:

Another great day at the watch:

Turkey Vulture: 22
Swallow-tailed Kite: 3
Mississippi Kite: 306
Cooper's Hawk: 2
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Broad-winged Hawk: 126
Swainson's Hawk: 7
Red-tailed Hawk: 4
Harris' Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 2
Unknown Buteo: 2
Unknown Accipiter: 1
Total: 477

One of the Red-tailed Hawks turned out to be a dark morph; it's flight feathers are almost completely translucent when backlit; match that with the dark body and you have a beautiful bird. We finally heard the famous phrase today: "I've got a kettle" which we've all been looking forward to.

A roadrunner made an appearance sneaking up behind the watchers and approaching to about 20 feet. It hung out under the bird feeder for awhile, probably hoping to snatch one of the smaller songbirds for lunch.

One of the most uncomfortable days so far. The temperature only got to 95, but 110 heat indexes and absolutely no breeze made for sticky watching.

Thanks, Scott! Quite a nice bit of laboring for Labor Day! We're watching radar tonight as that cold front approaches. It should pass during the overnight hours and bring temps into the upper 80's tomorrow through most of the week, with drier skies, lower heat indices and (best of all) a north wind for however long that little bonus will last. If you can swing another day off, I highly recommend heading out to the hill tomorrow. Post-frontal migrations are traditionally quite nice!

September 7, 2004:

Greetings all! Dane's got our post-front report tonight:

Mississippi Kites : 644
Broad-winged : 86
Kestrels : 8 ( all American - no Common or Eurasian ! )
Peregrines : 5
Cooper's : 3
Sharpies : 1 ( 1st of count ! )
Red-tailed : 2
Swainson's : 4
753 Birds ! Yahoo !!!!!!!

Thanks, Dane! What, no Eurasian kestrel? Horrors! Hey, don't laugh ... if a red-footed falcon can lose its way far enough to land on our shores, who knows, eh? Okay, so go ahead and laugh ... I guess I'm just a little giddy myself at the indications that those little passing cold fronts are still good for bringing hawks a'calling. Cool air has yet to move in, but winds tonight are still out of the north, which bodes very well for the watch Wednesday. Chomp yer chocolate, gang ... let's help push those bad boys on down!  

September 8, 2004:

Greetings all! Scott's opener says it all! Check out his report!:

Woo-hoo! Perfect weather conditions (for some of the day at least) meant another big increase in hawk numbers.

Here are the results:

Osprey: 1
Mississippi Kite: 1956
Northern Harrier: 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 2
Cooper's Hawk: 2
Broad-winged Hawk: 668
Swainson's Hawk: 5
Red-tailed Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 13
Peregrine Falcon: 7
Unknown Raptor: 50

TOTAL: 2708

We had big morning kite kettles low on the eastern horizon and big late afternoon kettles of kites and broadies directly overhead high. Our best day of the watch by far for kites, broadies, and falcons. Numbers are starting to build, and we're looking forward to even bigger numbers in the next couple of weeks.

We also had 200+ Baltimore and Orchard Orioles move overhead low during the first hour of the watch


Thanks, Scott! Excellent oriole count, too! Seeing them is exciting here on any day. That many in one day alone is awesome!!! This north wind is supposed to hold for a few more days. Let's hope! We need the shift to bring those birds on down ... now we're talking kite kounts!

September 9, 2004: 

Greetings all! Joel catches us up with September 9th's report:

Osprey : 2
Mississippis : 9
Harriers : 3
Sharpies: 7
Cooper's : 1
Broad-wings : 4231
Swainson's : 2
Red-tails : 1
Kestrels : 10
total = 4266

September 10, 2004:

Greetings all! Scott says the watch logged in another new bird for the season; one of our favorites!

Mississippi Kite: 129
Northern Harrier: 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1
Cooper's Hawk: 2
Broad-winged Hawk: 407
Swainson's Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 5
Prairie Falcon: 1
Unknown Falcon: 1

TOTAL: 550

A multi-personality weather day. We went from steamy hot with no clouds and haze, to thunderstorms one mile north of us to steamy and clear again. Prairie Falcon was the first of the watch this year!!


Thanks, Scott! The prairie falcon puts us at 19 species for the season so far.

Note to file: the report for Sept. 9th hasn't been sent to me yet; I'll post it as soon as I get it.

September 11, 2004 (We Will Never Forget):  

Greetings all! Dane has today's report:

Broad-wings : 5385
Red-tails : 1
Swainson's : 5
Mississippis : 10
Swallow-tailed : 1
Cooper's : 3
Kestrels : 1
Peregrines : 2
Osprey : 1
Harriers : 3
total = 5412


Thanks, Dane! These kinds of numbers definitely make the hot, steamy days easier to bear!

September 12, 2004:

Greetings all! Dane has today's report:

Broad-winged : 618
Red-tailed : 2
Swainson's : 2
Mississippis : 10
Sharp-shinned : 1
Cooper's : 8
Unidentified accips : 2
Kestrels : 1
Merlin : 1
Osprey : 1
Harrier : 1
Total : 647


Thanks, Dane! The watch got fogged out early on but once the mists lifted the raptors moved on through. Tonight a weak tropical wave developing off our coast is pushing moisture towards us. Remains to be seen what, if any, effect this will have on the migration for tomorrow.

September 13, 2004:

Greetings all! Dane has today's report, and some good stories to tell:

Broad-wings : 3146
Osprey : 2
Mississippis : 7
Harriers : 2
Cooper's : 1
Swainson's : 1
Merlin : 1
Short-tailed hawk : 1
Total Birds = 3161

That's right - you read it correctly! 1 adult light-morph Short-tailed Hawk!

This Bird flew overhead, approx. 1/2 mile up. Similar size in wingspan to Broad-winged (approx. 3 feet), with white throat, 2-toned underwings (flight feathers grayish, coverts clean white), white-bodied, tail whitish at base with a fairly prominent dark sub-terminal band - tail was folded, this Bird glided on level wings for entire observation (approx. 30 to 40 seconds ). Bird was flying South.

I have seen light-morph Short-tailed 15 to 20 times in Florida, but never outside of Florida. Certainly one of the most exciting Birds I have witnessed!

Unfortunately, Joel had not arrived on-site at time of observation, and Scott did not get a definitive look. As much as I wish they could have shared in the thrill, my enjoyment certainly was not lessened! I apologize if this sounds selfish!! (ED. NOTE: Heck, no! Sounds pretty danged exciting to me!)

The Merlin we had (our last Bird of day), was also thrilling. This adult female flew leisurely in below tree-level before making a swipe at a Dove (Inca , I think) - the dove escaped, and we watched the Falcon for a few more exciting seconds, and the Merlin ended up flying right over Scott's head, no more than 50 to 60 feet up! What a day!!!

Thanx, Dane


Wow, thank YOU, Dane! Awesome day! The rest of us were dodging thunderboomers around the Coastal Bend all day and watching a tropical wave of sorts forming off shore and making a general nuisance of itself, but happily, the watch wasn't plagued with much if any downtime. Witness the passage numbers for the day.

Our star of the day, short-tailed hawks, do have history in Texas, though not to the extent of Florida, of course. Brian K. Wheeler cites twelve accepted state records through 2001 for short-tailed hawk in his Raptors of Western North America (c 2003, Princeton Press). It's considered a rare but regular visitor. The exceptional field range maps in his book show one of the sighting areas as Corpus Christi, TX. The Corpus sighting is actually a double-header and comprises the last two accepted sightings of the short-tailed hawk in Texas. Two short-tailed hawks passed over the 1999 fall hawk watch site, one on October 8 and another on October 10. Brian notes hawks sighted in Texas are from the Mexico population of short-tailed hawks, apparently wandering a bit northward from their usual haunts. Here's to wandering!

Scott's merlin encounter is also reminiscent of some of the other "close encounters" hawk watchers have enjoyed on the hill over the years. Whaddaya think, guys; does that one qualify for a "near-Bob Creglow" level encounter? (Bob was doing his duty watching for broadies one day on the hill, sitting up against the fence line and scanning for incoming raptors when suddenly one lone broadie dove low into the watch site, realized it had company and nearly knocked Bob off his chair in its haste to get back airborne and on its way!). Scott IS kinda tall, so a 50-foot dust off comes close enough (oooo, I'm gonna pay for that little teasing, I just know it!). We'll put him in the ballpark and call it a definite "Hazel encounter" of the hawk kind! Ya gotta love it!! Keep your head down, Scott (literally!) and keep on sighting them in! These are the kinds of reports that make me wish I'd played hooky from work for the day!

September 14, 2004:

1 osprey
3 Miss. kite
2 Cooper's
30 broadwinged
1 Swainson's
1 white-tailed
1 kestrel
1 peregrine falcon
2 unid buteo
Total: 42

September 15, 2004:

4 Miss. kite
2 sharpies
4 Cooper's
878 broadies
3 Swainson's
1 red-tailed
1 Harris's
3 kestrel
2 peregrine
3 unid accipiter
Total: 901  

September 16, 2004 (Diez y Seis):

Scott reports another great day with the highest count for the year:
Osprey: 2
Swallow-tailed Kite: 3
Mississippi Kite: 19
Northern Harrier: 3
Cooper's Hawk: 8
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Broad-winged Hawk: 8231
Swainson's Hawk: 15
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
Harris' Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 2
Unknown Accipiter: 4
TOTAL: 8293

September 17, 2004:

Scott brings us today's report; says the streak continues! And so it does ...

Turkey Vulture: 1
Osprey: 2
Mississippi Kite: 16
Northern Harrier: 1
Cooper's Hawk: 2
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Broad-winged Hawk: 9503
Swainson's Hawk: 4
American Kestrel: 4
Peregrine Falcon: 2
Prairie Falcon: 1
Unknown Accipiter: 4

TOTAL: 9541

-We had a day full of ups and downs. We had nearly 4000 one hour, 300 the next, followed by 4000 and 1after that!
-New visitors to the feeder include Black-crested Titmouse and a Raccoon.
-The Prairie Falcon gave us a classic view as it flew past 150 feet above. We were able to pick out the key field marks quite easily; including dark axillary (underwing) feathers, light colored flight feathers, and unique wingbeat with the motion centered on the "wrist."

Thanks, Scott! An awesome day. Light winds generally overall and the weekend promises to be more of the same. 

September 18, 2004: 

Scott brings us today's report; the first five-figure day of the fall season!

Well, we can't ask for too much after the string of days we've been putting together. Today was another blockbuster. Here are the results:

Osprey: 5
Swallow-tailed Kite: 1
Mississippi Kite: 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 2
Cooper's Hawk: 5
Broad-winged Hawk: 15514
Swainson's Hawk: 2
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
White-tailed Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 2
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 4
Unknown Buteo: 1
TOTAL: 15547

-It was great to see so many visitors out at the hill today. We had people from Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Tennessee, etc. Please, if anyone is thinking of coming out, do so. We can always use the extra eyes!
-Dane and I found a female Summer Tanager on the other side of the 17th tee this morning. First tanager of the watch!
-We are trying to befriend a ground-squirrel that lives also near the 17th tee of the golf course. Hopefully, he will come closer to sample some of Jimmy Swartz's fine seed.

Thanks, Scott! Another awesome day!

September 19, 2004:

Osprey: 7
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1
Cooper's Hawk: 3
Broad-winged Hawk: 116
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
White-tailed Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 2
Unknown Accipiter: 2
Unknown Buteo: 1

TOTAL: 136

September 20, 2004:

Black Vulture: 8
Osprey: 5
Mississippi Kite: 6
Northern Harrier: 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 6
Cooper's Hawk: 5
Broad-winged Hawk: 31,563
Swainson' Hawk: 11
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
White-tailed Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 5
Peregrine Falcon: 4
Unknown Accipiter: 5

TOTAL: 31,623

Besides the blockbuster hawk day, Dane and I found a few other birds early this morning: Red-eyed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Vermilion Flycatcher.

September 21, 2004:

Greetings, all! The five digit days continue in spite of the last gasp of Hurricane Ivan strewing rain and thunderboomers all over the coastal bend this week. Here's today's report from the hill by Scott:

Turkey Vulture: 11
Swallow-tailed Kite: 1
Mississippi Kite: 6
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 4
Broad-winged Hawk: 18053
Swainson's Hawk: 12
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 2
Unknown Accipiter: 1

TOTAL: 18091

Our first real kettle of the year (Joel claims that only groups of broadies 5000 or bigger are true "kettles!"). Others have a less strict definition!

99% of the birds came between 10 and 1, and we only had 1 bird after 1:00 pm.

Thanks, Scott! We are heading into peak passage period this week and excitement is starting to become almost palpable. It'll be interesting to see what effect the incoming weather may have. Storms often bunch hawks up as they wait for the break to cut and run, so to speak, so we'll hope there are just enough storm clouds in the area to do some good and not enough to stop them down altogether.

In conjunction with the peak passage period this week, don't forget to get on out to the hill and join us for a Celebration of Flight! Festivities kick off on Thursday on the hill with presentations on hawk watching and raptor migration studies throughout the day. Thursday night, Last Chance Forever, The Bird of Prey Conservancy from San Antonio will be on hand with their "Wings and Wildlife Over Texas" program. Thursday night's show is in the Calallen High School Auditorium and is free; come one, come all! They'll also be on site at the watch for an open-air show on Friday at 10am. All programs throughout the Celebration of Flight are free. Best deal in town! More information can be found on our Celebration of Flight page, linked from our Texas Hawk Watches web site (http://www.ccbirding.com/thw/2004/cof.html).

AND! If you happen to be in the Galveston/Houston area, check out the Smith Point Celebration. They've got a wonderful education program planned for September 25 & 26th; you don't want to miss out! For more information about the Smith Point Hawk Watch: Magnificent Migrations Workshops (25-26 Sept 2004), visit their website at: www.gcbo.org (click on SPHW logo under "upcoming events").

Don't forget the chocolate, whichever festival or watch you attend!

September 22, 2004: 

Greetings, all! More wetness in and around the coastal bend today as Ivan reforms in the Gulf of Mexico (can you believe it!?) and threatens to hit tropical storm status one more time. Funny, I don't recall anyone asking for an encore this season!

Dane sends along tonight's report:

Broad-winged : 5284
Red-tailed : 1
Swainson's : 2
Sharpies : 3
Cooper's : 4
Kestrels : 6
Peregrines : 1
Merlin : 1
Harrier : 1
Unknown Falcon : 1
total : 5304

Thanks, Dane!

Hey, don't forget, we're heading into the Celebration of Flight starting Thursday! Get on out to the hill and join us in presentations on hawk watching and raptor migration studies throughout the day. Thursday night, Last Chance Forever, The Bird of Prey Conservancy from San Antonio will be on hand with their "Wings and Wildlife Over Texas" program. The feature video of the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch by TailFeather Productions will also be shown. Thursday night's activities are in the Calallen High School Auditorium and you just can't beat the price ... like the hill activities, it's all free! Come one, come all! Last Chance Forever will also be on site at the watch for an open-air show on Friday at 10am. More information can be found on our Celebration of Flight page, linked from our Texas Hawk Watches web site (http://www.ccbirding.com/thw/2004/cof.html).

AND! In conjunction with the peak passage period, Smith Point's Hawk Watch crew is also gearing up for their own celebration. If you happen to be in the Galveston/Houston area, check out their wonderful education program and festival planned for September 25 & 26th; you don't want to miss out! For more information about the Smith Point Hawk Watch: Magnificent Migrations Workshops (25-26 Sept 2004), visit their website at: www.gcbo.org (click on SPHW logo under "upcoming events").

Wherever you end up this week, don't forget the chocolate!

September 23, 2004:


Am heading out the door to the Celebration of Flight's night time presentation, but wanted to get word out asap ... Joel says the Corpus watch had a massive set down tonight of 10,000-15,000 broadwinged hawks, all over the watch area, as close in as 15 feet away from counters!! There will be one hell of a liftoff tomorrow morning. Play hooky, do whatever you have to do, but be there if you want to see some real fun and amazing numbers of hawks in the air right overhead at one time!

Hawks were flying so thick and fast and from so many directions at once at noon that Joel says they didn't even count about 10,000 other hawks. Nor does the total for today include those hawks "counted" for set down. You know the drill; they'll be counted tomorrow morning when they take off and more accurate counting can take place. They're kinda hard to count when they're falling in right on your head. <grin!>

This ain't pretty, but it'll serve for now until we get back from the program tonight:

black vulture 41
osprey 3
swallowtailed kite 1
miss kite 1
norther harrier 1
sharpie 27
Cooper's 4
broadies 68,574 (thank you, Ivan!)
swainson's 11
kestrel 6
peregrine 3
unid accipiter 5
unid buteo 1
DAY'S TOTAL: 68,678

YES!!!! Don't forget the chocolate! More tonight once I grill the counters. <grin!>

UPDATE:  Joel says the big flights of the day were three kettles of 14000, 18000 and 8000. Setdown started around 3:50pm Texas time and by about 4:30pm, all 10000-15000 of the incoming hawks were down in the trees, settling in for the night.

September 24, 2004:

....... Wow! ....... I'm still trying to catch my breath! WAOOOWWWWW!! YEAH!!!! High fives all around, if you please! NOW we're in peak passage period! You remember that liftoff we mentioned last night, for this morning? Whoa, baby, did those puppies lift off! By the tens of thousands!! As we suspected, the influx over the park and within view of the watch site on west down river and into the Wood River area was just the eastern tip of the mass of broadwinged hawks that set down. You know broadies. Crash land into the first tree perch that comes along, then spend the rest of the evening light sorting out different perches and moving around a bit, shuffling to get the best position for the next morning's takeoff. Confirmation of the flight came this morning when some folks coming in from the west for liftoff as well as one of our volunteer counters in that same area reported tens of thousands of more hawks lifting off along the river ridges for miles west of the site, probably all the way to our occasional secondary site at West Lake and maybe even a tad beyond that. We suspect the total numbers might've easily been twice the count at Hazel. Officially, the liftoff count was 60,500. Not baaaad! And quite exciting for folks who rolled out to see the broadies off (or played hooky from work for the morning's lift off -- gee, I wonder who would do something like that?), and weren't disappointed. Liftoff ran from 9:15am to right at 11:00am (all times unless otherwise noted are Texas local time). It lasted so long, poor John and Kelly from Last Chance Forever got preempted for a bit, until the feathers settled and the last of the morning crew of broadies was under way. John's a trooper, though, never let there be any doubt! Despite five figure hours every hour for the first three hours, John and Kelly hung in there and gave their usual outstandingly excellent educational program on raptors, rehabilitation and conservancy. Even when a HUUUUUGE kettle (mega-kettle, by definition, <grin!>) came RIGHT overhead, and I mean RIGHT overhead of John's program, he just smoothly incorporated the flight right into his talk! It was pretty funny, actually ... there was John, well into his presentation, when suddenly, heads started bobbing up one at a time, then a little ripple ran through the crowd ... ("um ... broadies?") ... then a few more heads turned upward ... ("um, kettle?") ... then cameras and binos went up .... (Um ... KETTLES!!!"). Never one to pass up some good living props, John just smoothly incorporated that flight into his talk, after counters logged it in. The flight checked in at 27,320 broadwinged hawks!

Okay, you've suffered through my prose long enough! Heads up, all you guys down in the Texas valley ... we're about to send you all some more business. <grin!>

Here's the tally for today's really sweet flights, by species, then our traditional hourly break out for the really good flight days:

Black vultures: 13
Turkey vultures: 5
Osprey: 3
Miss. kite: 2
Sharpies: 27
Cooper's: 25
Red-shouldered: 1
Broad-winged: 129726
Swainson's: 8
Red-tailed: 5
Harris's hawk: 1
Kestrels: 12
Merlin: 4
Peregrines: 1
Unknown Accipiter: 12
Unknown Buteo: 1
Unknown Falcon: 1
Unknown Raptor: 1
Total : 129,848

Hourly break out:
8:30-9:00am: zero (yes, really!)
9am-10am: 20443
10am-11am: 58534
11am-12p: 37288
12p-1p: 45
1p-2p: 528
2p-3p: 760
3p-4p: 54
4p-5p: 456
5p-6p: 11737
6p-6:15pm: 3

Whew! Thanks, Joel, Dane and Scott! And thanks also to Jimmy Swartz and all the other chocolate carriers for immediately whipping out the chocolate and passing it around during lift off. Hey, it's NEVER too early for chocolate, you guys know that! Oh, and by the way, to my buddy in San Antonio who quipped privately to me via email last night when a few of the numbers from the day before stuck to the new grand total ... I cracked up laughing at his question: "Are you drunk on chocolate?!" ... No, Mike, not at the time I wasn't, but hey, give me a chance tomorrow ... anything is possible now that Bill and I are officially on leave for the next week!! <laughing!>

I have to laugh ... Joel told me tonight it took them an hour and a half to proof the count numbers for today. I just realized it's taking me about that same time to resolve my own entries and write this report!! Too funny!

Okay, what else? Oh, yes!! Joel had a great field note that you might also find of interest. During the afternoon, a turkey vulture soared by, but this vulture did it a little differently. This vulture soared on by clutching something in its talons that Joel said looked remarkably like a rat or mouse!! Bulky body in the talons, trailing a tail. Definitely not a snake. Joel said several of them had the vulture in their scopes and got good looks. A local taking a quick snack somewhere undisturbed? Very interesting vulture behavior!

A little more business before we go. For those folks already down here or getting here this weekend, our own Rich Gibbons and Rockport Adventures are doing some evening boat tours out of Fulton Harbor for hawk watchers wanting to rest and cool off from the day's hot activities. The three-hour tours run on Capt. Ted's MS Skimmer; a great birding vessel. Trips leave 6pm on Saturday and 8pm on Sunday. Check out www.rockportadventures.com for more information.

Tomorrow is Day 3 of our Celebration of Flight! Get on out to the hill and join us in presentations on hawk watching and raptor migration studies throughout the day. Thursday night, Last Chance Forever, The Bird of Prey Conservancy from San Antonio gave an outstanding show to an audience of adults and children. The feature video of the Hazel Bazemore Hawk Watch by TailFeather Productions was also shown. DVDs and VHS tapes of the feature are for sale at the watch site, with a portion of each sale going directly to Hawk Watch International for support of the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch. Thanks megas to the wonderful folks at Calallen High School for hosting Thursday night's activities! We move to the hill for the remaining activities, and remember, it's all free! Sunday noon marks the fifth annual Native American Blessing Ceremony (if it doesn't rain; we're playing it by ear until we wake up Sunday and find out what the weather and remnants of Ivan are going to actually do to us)!

AND! In conjunction with the peak passage period, Smith Point's Hawk Watch crew is also gearing up for their own celebration. If you happen to be in the Galveston/Houston area, check out their wonderful education program and festival planned for September 25 & 26th; you don't want to miss out! For more information about the Smith Point Hawk Watch: Magnificent Migrations Workshops (25-26 Sept 2004), visit their website at: www.gcbo.org (click on SPHW logo under "upcoming events").

And, Jeff Hanson of the Hornsby Bend hawk watch (near Austin, TX) says they're gearing up to their own peak passage period in early October. Drop on by there October 6-12 and help count their peak passage raptor, the Swainson's hawk!

Lordie, I hope that about covers it all. If you lasted this far, bless you, and may you be blessed with mass quantities of the chocolate of your choice! Rest your eyes up for tomorrow. Those babies are coming through! And wherever you do end up this week, don't forget the chocolate!  

September 25 and 26, 2004: 

After a blockbuster day on Friday, the weekend fell victim to the active storm systems of the southern US. Hurricane Ivan worked its way north and west after landfall. We managed to avoid the predicted deluges of outfall rain (much to the joy of everyone participating in our fifth annual Native American Blessing Ceremony this afternoon!), but the effects were felt nonetheless, as you can see by the numbers:

Broad-winged : 1553
Swainson's : 1
Red-shouldered : 3
Turkey Vultures : 2
Mississippis : 6
Sharpies : 18
Cooper's : 11
Unknown Accips : 2
Kestrels : 6
Peregrines : 2
Unknown Falcons : 1
Osprey : 4
Harriers : 2
Total = 1611

Broad-winged :93
Red-tailed : 2
Swainson's : 2
Mississippis : 8
Sharpies : 10
Cooper's : 14
Unknown Accips : 2
Kestrels : 16
Peregrines : 1
Merlin : 1
Osprey : 1
Harriers : 3
Harris's : 1
Unknown Raptors : 2
Total = 156

Thanks, Dane! Yeah, a bit skimpy on the numbers side, but rich, rich, rich on the experiences side. Some fun things observed this weekend included the first meeting of two former classmates since 1966. They didn't even know each other back then in high school, but in the meet-n-greet that often takes place as folks meet each other at the watch, their mutual get-to-know-you conversation revealed that not only were these two guys from the same town, but went to the same high school and graduated in the same year!! They found out this weekend they had a lot in common, including a fascination with and admiration for birds of prey. Awesome!

What a joy to welcome back our mobile friends who take time and money from their lives and homes to travel to Corpus Christi each fall migration and spend some time with us on the hill! You are all so appreciated and loved!

Thanks also to our very good friends Clay Taylor and our newest friends Wildlife biologist John DeLong and his wife, Jessie. Clay brought huge grins to everyone's faces with the opportunity to try out Swarovski's newest and best binos and scopes. Christmas is not that far away, ya know! John is a long-time HawkWatch International research associate based in New Mexico. He gave excellent presentations on hawk migration and whetted everyone's appetites describing the golden eagle flights at his area's watch in the Manzanos. Thanks also to our own Dr. Robert Benson for taking time during his busy weekends and setting up his university project's mobile radar to spot incoming kettles. The tech just keeps getting better and better, and watching those kettles moving our way on this latest update in his radar really got our blood racing as we eagerly searched the skies to sight them in for the count. And of course, thanks and blessings to the Gulf Coast Indian Confederation and the Flour Bluff Circle of Thunder drum for the wonderful ceremonial to bless the watch and participants. Our 4-day Celebration of Flight concluded today and was a wonderful success, and we thank everyone who made it possible, especially the dozens and dozens of volunteers who make the watch so much fun and so rewarding!  

September 27, 2004:

Greetings, all! Scott brings today's report:

Black Vulture: 51
Osprey: 18
Northern Harrier: 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 17
Cooper's Hawk: 11
Broad-winged Hawk: 82420
Swainson's Hawk: 3
Red-tailed Hawk: 4
White-tailed Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 12
Peregrine Falcon: 3
Crested Caracara: 1
Unknown Accipiter: 3
Unknown Buteo: 2
Unknown Raptor: 3

TOTAL: 82551

Almost all of our action took place today between 9:00 and 11:00, with virtually all the broadies passing through in this time period. We had a mind blowing kettle/stream of 58,500 at one point. Also, a great number of Osprey (18) was mixed in with the passing broadies. Accipiters and Kestrels were constant as singles throughout the day. Later in the day, we became completely overcast, had a low cloud ceiling and even had some rain showers. This turned off the raptor flow almost to zero. The wind picked up from the west-northwest in the afternoon, but even these favorable winds didn't help us out too much. Other highlights included a huge flock of staging Wood Storks (~250) and a Vermilion Flycatcher.

Thanks, Scott! An excellent report! With weather pushing migration through late this season, and rains all around us during the traditional peak passage periods, we should have several more good number days before the majority of the broadies move on through southward. Hopefully, all that chocolate left from Sunday helped a little, too. <grin!>

September 28, 2004:

Greetings, all! Hurricane Ivan strikes again! Today's influx took the form of broadwinged hawks as the backlog of raptors pushed off schedule by the multiple tropical systems bisecting the country rendezvoused at Corpus Christi, Texas. If you heard any rumbles in the air, it was likely not the last gasp of weather fading from the passing systems. More likely, it was the roars that went up from the Hill as massive kettles and rivers of hawks soared overhead in a seemingly unendless stream of raptors. The River of Raptors finally arrived! Joel and the counters give us this preliminary report, but be advised, numbers may change by the time the final proofing is done. Joel reports the watch actually started late due to low visibility (less than 1KM) this morning. Just made the rest of the day that much sweeter!

Black Vulture: 28
Turkey Vulture: 40
Osprey: 10
Miss Kite: 6
Northern Harrier: 8
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 51
Cooper's Hawk: 28
Broad-winged Hawk: 519,948
Swainson's Hawk: 60
Red-tailed Hawk: 18
American Kestrel: 18
Merlin: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 12
Unknown Accipiter: 37
Unknown Buteo: 1

TOTAL: 520,242 by Joel's sheet
TOTAL: 520,266 by my spreadsheet
Joel notes the final total should be within 100 or so of the above once the numbers are proofed (species tally sheet against the hourly numbers tally sheet)

9-10: 4 (watch start at 9:30 due to fog)
10-11: 24
11-12: 6,676 (skies finally cleared)
12-13: 273,436
13-14: 178,882
14-15: 16,017
15-16: 1,419
16-17: 42,298
17-18: 1,486

You'll note the final two hours brought about 43,000-plus broadies across the watch site. Joel says none set down in the Hazel Bazemore County Park watch site but rather moved farther westward and headed in. So those watchers in the area, be sure to head west between County Road 73 and our western secondary watch site of West Gate (14 miles due west on Farm to Market 624). Watch for a nice liftoff tomorrow morning in the western zone and do check in with the watch afterward and let them know what you saw (and email me, too, please!). Awesome, awesome day! Congrats to the counters, who have now been baptized in the true Hazel Bazemore fashion!

Funny, talk about timing ... a couple hours before Joel's report came in I answered about a dozen emails asking where all the broadwinged hawks were and had we peaked and had most of the hawks already gone through. We knew the migration was running later than normal here, most certainly thanks to the tropical waves washing repeatedly across and through the eastern seaboard and southeastern Gulf of Mexico. We knew we had one influx last Friday with up to twice as many more passing even farther west of our site. But we also knew, we hadn't seen the majority yet! We watched over the weekend, watched the weather fronts pass, form corridors and finally clear, and happily, the broadies did not disappoint, and once again, passed their way over the watch site. Even so, we suspect we may have another good flight day tomorrow. Joel notes today was the third day of NW winds, which always bode best for our fall watch site. Additionally, even with the huge number of broadies overhead today (a full third of which passed directly over the site with the majority breaking east and south), not one dark morph broadwinged could be found in any flight. Nor have we had much influx of Swainson's hawks for the season. Thanks to our friends at more northerly and easterly watches, we received word today that Swainson's are also on the move again, so even though a good chunk of broadies have made their way southward, migration is far from over and many more species have yet to come across the Texas gates.  

September 29, 2004: 

Greetings, all!

We're still reeling from the count yesterday, heh! Final proofs are in. Add one sharpie to the count, and there you have it -- 520,267 -- a record breaking highest single day count for the Corpus Christi Hawk Watch at Hazel Bazemore County Park (breaks the previous single day record of 400,000), AND, it looks like, for the US and Canada as well. Smoley hokes, Batman, that's a LOT of hawks! Thanks to everyone who wrote in congratulatory notes. They were read by the hawk watch staff at our traditional dinner tonight with other watch friends, and were very, very much appreciated!

So, that brings us to today's count ... somewhat smaller as you would expect, but respectable, indeed. Let's take a look at the numbers that Scott has sent over for us:

Turkey Vulture: 23
Osprey: 10
Northern Harrier: 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 27
Cooper's Hawk: 18
Broad-winged Hawk: 38,719 (including 13 DM)
Swainson's Hawk: 7
Red-tailed Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 13
Merlin: 4
Peregrine Falcon: 11
Unknown Accipiter: 8
Unknown Buteo: 1
Unknown Falcon: 2
Unknown Raptor: 1
TOTAL: 38,849

Hourly breakout:
08-09: 1
09-10: 1892 (incl. 2 DM)
10-11: 8287
11-12: 2686 (incl. 1 DM)
12-13: 2948 (incl. 9 DM)
13-14: 4355
14-15: 1341
15-16: 4164 (incl. 1 DM)
16-17: 13045

Of special note ... today brought some dark-morph broadies (designated DM) across the watch. Scott reports a notable total of 13 for the day! Scott notes a couple other dark morphs were seen earlier in the watch; we'll get those dates posted when we can get through the records. Today's sightings mark a slight shift in the migration as some of the more western ranges of the broadies apparently made their way to the watch, as evidenced by the dark morphs.

Scott and Joel note the last hour's hawks once again did not set down in or around the park watch site, or Wood River subdivision up river, but went further west. So, once again, those in the area, head back out to West Gate for another morning liftoff!

Joel noted that yesterday the watch site did have a liftoff ... of ONE single broadie, <laugh!>! Hey, one is better than nothing! Apparently the West Gate and other points west did have a good liftoff this morning as anticipated from the Half Million Day evening set down to the west. Watchers who ventured west to catch it reported around 20,000 at our secondary West Gate site this morning. Those numbers aren't included in the official count for the main site, but only for our records, of course. Whew! What a week! And it's not over yet, folks. Despite an ozone action day (meaning flat dead calm day with no winds, and an area brush fire that took three hours to put out, to boot), and an anticipated second ozone action day tomorrow, we're still looking at northerly breezes and an incoming cold front due in this Saturday to bring even more action, so don't let your guard down, and keep the chocolate flowing! 

September 30, 2004:

Greetings, all!

Wow, our half million day is really generating some thoughtful commentaries! Let's get today's business done first, then we'll chat some more about that.

Today was another light wind, fogged in, late start day, but quite respectable nonetheless when the hawks finally went airborne and moved through the watch. Joel and Dane racked up another five figure day for us, which puts us within spitting range of one million for the season if the anticipated flights to come materialize over the watch. Here's the breakout for 9/30:

Turkey vulture: 19
Osprey: 12
Miss Kite: 1
Sharpies: 22
Cooper's: 5
Broadies: 37,892 (4 DM)
Swainson's: 25
Red-tailed: 1 (DM)
Kestrels: 9
Merlin: 1
Peregrine: 3
Unid Accipiter: 4
Unid Buteo: 7
Unid Falcon: 1
Unid Raptor: 4
TOTAL: 38,006

Some other housecleaning business: today brought four more dark morph (DM) broadies through the watch. Joel updated our records for morphs and darks and between the 13 yesterday, the four today and one additional dark morph broadie that went through the watch on 9/24, we're up to a total of 18 dark morph broadwinged hawks for the season.

In addition, the watch has recorded some of the lesser-seen redtails, including a Harlen's on 9/27 (a really nice adult, says Joel) and an adult dark morph redtail that came through the watch today.

Okay now, let's check back in on Hazel Bazemore's September 28th record count. Paul Cypher over at the SMRR (Southeastern Michigan Raptor Research) project wrote last night to remind us of the incredibly massive flight their project recorded on September 17, 1999 where a grand total for the day of 555,371 broadwinged hawks alone were counted in a massive post-Hurricane Floyd push through their Great Lakes area sites. Thanks so much, Paul! Paul and I hoisted virtual beers to each other in our exchanges last night for their truly awesome day in 1999, but in researching the numbers for SMRR after I got off line, I remembered why it didn't click in my mind right off the bat.

SMRR is a picket-line watch project that incorporates multiple sites and reports a daily total for the project. While site-specific records are kept by the project for each site's counts on each day, none were released by individual site for that fall. All Joel and I could find on breakouts for the 1999 SMRR flight were what was recorded in the HMANA Hawk Migration Studies journal for Fall 1999 (which cites a 555,371 broadie grand total for SMRR in its wrap report as well as a fine special report on that particular day's flood - man, what a great day that was!) and the SMRR sites project report that was filed on the internet for the September 17th day's report (which actually listed even less broadies for the day's total).

Hazel Bazemore is a single watch site, and only hawks which pass over that one site are recorded for our count. Hence the citation of the Hazel Bazemore site for the largest US-Canada single site, single day count. Hopefully, this will clear up some of the questions.

And what fun we had going over the old records! Researching this fun conundrum only served to put me even more in awe of the watch efforts of the many volunteers and paid counters all Western Hemisphere watch sites, and the raptors themselves as they wing over more and more monitored sites each year. Whether we're getting more of us into more of the right places, or the raptors are adjusting their flyways and managing to hit more of the monitored sites (probably a bit of both over the years, eh?), it's clear that the counts will rack up from time to time, and most likely from weather influences over sites that had not had such prior six-digit traffic in such massive numbers.

When it's all said and done, every single site is important in equal amounts, simply for the critical data each site offers up each season. Sometimes we joke from site to site about our counts, but really, more often the rivalry falls within our own individual sites ("Gee, I wonder if we'll beat our site's latest record totals with the flights of this new season?!"). Duluth and Toronto have also had awesome record breaking six-digit day flights in recent years. We never really know where the next record-breaking flight will pop up. As I told Paul, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see all of the records broken in the next year or so as weather influences conspire to play chess with the migration. It's said we're entering a more stormy decade or two starting this year (may the heavens have mercy on us if this year was any indication of what's to come!). We all know how weather is such a critically important factor influencing raptor migration. And in the mystery therein lies the fun of the chase! Onward into October!    

Season totals to date:
157 ........Black vulture
123 ........Turkey vulture
96 .........Osprey
34 .........Swallow-tailed kite
0 ..........White-tailed kite
4436 .......Mississippi kite
0 ..........Hook-billed kite
0 ..........Bald eagle
45 .........Northern harrier
230 ........Sharp-shinned hawk
180 ........Cooper's hawk
0 ..........Northern goshawk
8 ..........Red-shouldered hawk
982925 .....Broad-winged hawk (incl. 18 DM)
248 ........Swainson's hawk
65 .........Red-tailed hawk (1 DM, 1 Harlen's)
0 ..........Ferruginous hawk
9 ..........White-tailed hawk
1 ..........Short-tailed hawk
0 ..........Zone-tailed hawk
8 ..........Harris's hawk
0 ..........Rough-legged hawk
0 ..........Common black hawk
0 ..........Golden eagle
178 ........American kestrel
17 .........Merlin
74 .........Peregrine falcon
2 ..........Prairie falcon
0 ..........Aplomado falcon
4 ..........Crested caracara
96 .........Unknown accipiters
25 .........Unknown buteos
7 ..........Unknown falcons
0 ..........Unknown eagles
61 .........Unknown raptors
989,029... Season total to 09/30

Click here to go to October's reports

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