Jo Hays Vista – October 2011 Report

On the first day of October, we had counted 2048 migrate past Jo Hays Vista, the best fall flight at  this site ever recorded. I was really excited to see what would happen in October, after all last year we really didn’t even start hawk watching seriously up at JHV until October and we were rewarded with a wonderful flight of 994 raptors during the month, primarily Red-tailed Hawks. I was hoping we would be able to beat that total this October.

However, October was absolutely horrible. As most people know, JHV just doesn’t get birds passing unless the wind conditions are perfect. Winds this October were far from perfect. On the few days north or northwest winds were predicted, we made sure someone was up there counting. A few times, I even went up on days predicted to have west, east, and/or south winds just to make sure birds weren’t using the ridge, only to find that the rumors were true – unless the winds are out of the north or northwest, not a single raptor flies down Tussey Mountain.

A particularly close Osprey that passed JHV on October 3rd. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The curse of undesirable wind conditions we had this month resulted in a total of 8 days (29 hours) worth of observation time at Jo Hays which resulted in 518 raptors being counted during the month. This is the third best October on record for the site. All of us JHV hawk watchers had to suffer through October while we got daily reports from other hawk watching sites about the great month they were having, particularly the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. That site benefited from the primarily south and/or east wind direction this month and had 2892 raptors. Many hawk watches also started to get really great pushes of Golden Eagles, while we were only able to get 2 all month. October 30th was our best day of the month, with 161 raptors counted as migrating past JHV by Nick Bolgiano. That day was thanks almost entirely to a large push of Turkey Vultures moving south.

The breakdown of the raptors we counted migrate past JHV during October 2011. (

As you can see, my prediction of the harrier numbers picking up during October, was totally wrong. We only had 2. The most abundant species of the month was Sharp-shinned Hawk, followed closely by Turkey Vulture and then in third place, Red-tailed Hawk. I am also very happy with this year’s Bald Eagle count so far. Perhaps the best day to have been at JHV this past October was on the 2nd when Joe Verica, Ian Gardner, and I counted 6 Peregrine Falcons shoot past.

One of six Peregrine Falcons to pass JHV on October 2nd; this one is an adult. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Some non-raptor highlights during October included some flyovers of assorted warbler species and the first pushed of Canada Geese. A few Monarchs and Green Darners continued to pass as well.

I would like to thank Chuck Widman, Bob Fredrick, Drew Weber, Chet and Sue Gottfried, Joe Verica, Nate Fronk, Josh Lefever, Nadia Barkawi, Steve Brenner, Bob Horton, and Nick Bulgiano for coming up to JHV at least once during October to help us document the migrating raptors.

If anyone else is interested in volunteering to count migrants at JHV, please refer to this link.

The table below shows how this past October compared to previous Octobers at JHV.

Comparison of this year's count during October to past Octobers. (