Jo Hays Vista – 469 Migrant Raptors Today!

I got a late start today at Jo Hays Vista, but it didn’t matter because the valley was covered in a thick blanket of haze until about 3:40.  I arrived at 12:00, and I was joined by Chuck Widdman shortly after.  The wind was nonexistant, and local Turkey Vultures weren’t even flying around.  Monarchs just seemed to float in mid air with no help from any updrafts or thermals. At 2:00, Chuck spotted our first bird of the day, a far away accipiter, trying to get some lift near a Turkey Vulture.  The bird never came back into view and took the southern edge of the ridge versus flying over us.  About half an hour later, Chuck spotted an adult Bald Eagle in a quick powered flight right over tree level and the road. Apparently he couldn’t find any thermals either in the thick haze.  A few local Red-tailed Hawks cruised over the valley eventually, and while they got some height, they were never able to break through the haze.  Eventually, some clouds started to break, and after a few gray clouds passed, they were replaced with a bunch of nice fluffy white clouds.  I got a text from Drew Weber, who was on campus, that said he had between 100 and 200 Broad-winged Hawks circling over the stadium.  We were worried we would miss them in the thick haze that was only slowly lifting over the valley, but within about 25 minutes, a huge kettle of Broad-wings was visible way out over the valley against a white puffy cloud.  Todd Stawser had showed up just before this and was able to help us count this kettle, as they glided off to the west and towards our ridge.  While this was happening, Chuck was on another kettle that was gliding off to the east, comparable in size to the first at about 190.  Eventually, smaller kettles of new birds started forming just west of the radio towers, and before we knew it, our Broad-winged count was at 453!  An Osprey, a few Northern Harriers, and American Kestrels also flew through during this push when the weather cleared. During in the last few hours of the day, Chet and Sue Gottfried showed up to help us spot a few more kestrels, 2 more Bald Eagles, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Our total count of Broad-wings was 456, and our total raptor count was 469.  Thanks to Chuck, Todd, Chet, and Sue for their help today! While tomorrows weather looks grim from the morning to early afternoon, the weather is likely to break between 3:00 and 4:00, which will likely result in another good push of Broad-wings.