Most hawk watches in Pennsylvania don’t start officially counting until September 1st each year but at Jo Hayes we took advantage of some of the beautiful August days that we had and officially started on August 10th. We ended August with exactly 100 raptor migrants and considering that only 29.5 hours worth of observation time were put in over the course of 8 days, I am pretty happy! Drew Weber was the lead counter on our first day of the season, and tallied nine raptors migrating past the site. Due to busy schedules and undesirable weather conditions, there wasn’t much hawk watching done until August 22nd. From then till the end of the month, someone was present for at least a few hours most days. August 26th was our best day of the season so far, with a total of 30 raptors migrating past.
Of the 100 raptors tallied passing by Jo Hayes Vista this August, most of the birds were Broad-winged Hawks (34), as should be expected this time of the season. August 26th was our best Broad-wing day so far this season with 23 individuals counted that day. Chuck Widman, Bob Fredrick, and I were the counters that day and we noted that, of the birds close enough to tell, most were juveniles, including the one pictured below.
The second most abundant migrant of the month was Red-tailed Hawk, with 21 seen flying south. This species migrates throughout the season, but typically peaks in late October or November. The two local Red-tails seen almost every day have been pretty aggressive towards the passage birds. One of the local red-tails seems to dive bomb any that come by low enough.
Perhaps the most exciting part of hawk-watching in August is that we documented the start of what will hopefully be another fantastic year for Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles were our third most abundant migrant this month with a total of 20. August 22nd was the best day so far this season, when a total of 8 individual Bald Eagles passed the site! I am very excited to see how the rest of the season plays out for this species. Below is a photo taken by Chet Gottfried (www.lookoutnow.com) of a 4th year Bald Eagle that passed JHV on August 28th.
As far as other raptor migrants, numbers were quite low this month. Sharp-shinned Hawk and Osprey numbers are starting to build and we are beginning to see some appearances by other species such as Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, and American Kestrel. As the season progresses, these species’ daily counts should begin to rise and we should also start seeing some other exciting species like Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, and Merlin. Please visit this link to see all the JHV data entered into HawkCount.org for the month of August.
Some non-raptor highlights for August have been the building numbers of Chimney Swifts, Barn Swallows, and Cedar Waxwings passing the site. August 23rd was our best Monarch day so far this season with 27 counted as they floated by on their way south.
I would like to thank Chuck Widman, Bob Fredrick, Drew Weber, Tim Schreckengost, Chet Gottfried, Joe Verica, and Jon Kauffman for coming up to JHV at least once during August to help us document the migrating raptors.
If anyone else is interested in volunteering to count migrants at JHV, please refer to this link.
Below is a table comparing what we have seen so far in 2011, to the totals seen over the course of entire seasons from 2002 till 2010. No other season has had counts conducted in August, so we are already ahead of the game, plus we already have more observation hours than 5 of the previous eight years.