Daily Hawk Count

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Friday, November 15, 2019

By Paula Eberle

The Friday II team started the morning on a high note. Before heading up to Hawk Hill, we made a quick stop at Rodeo Lagoon to look for the Tri-colored Heron that has been hanging around in the recent weeks. We spotted it foraging in some reeds near a Great Egret and a Snowy Egret. Once up on the hill, we had a much slower morning. The breeze was low, the clouds were close, and the birds were not flying. Around noon, however, the skies cleared, and we got more hopeful. A Buteo breakout occurred, with large numbers of Red-tailed Hawks zooming towards us from Mount Tam and crossing effortlessly into San Francisco. After the initial boom of birds, out raptor stream mellowed to a nice even pace. Early afternoon brought us a Ferruginous Hawk, lazily flying over from Hill 88. It circled in West quadrant for a few moments before heading on its way. About an hour later, a male American Kestrel decided to kite in the air just in from of North Quadrant, giving us a spectacular view of this little raptor. Just as the day was beginning to wind down, fog from the west blew in and covered the hill in a blanket of clouds, causing us to stop our count one hour early. Despite the early departure, it was an exciting day up on the hill!

Total Sightings: 249
Hours Counted: 5.2
HPH: 47.88
Total Species: 9

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 80
Northern Harrier: 19
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 12
Cooper's Hawk: 9
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 113
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 7
Peregrine Falcon: 4

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 3
Total unidentified: 3

Thursday, November 14, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant and Maggie Brown

The Thursday II team arrived this morning with high hopes for today's hawkwatch. Unlike in previous days, there wasn't a blanket of fog hanging over the Headlands. On our way up to the hill, we made a brief stop at the East end of Rodeo Lagoon to look at the recently sighted Tricolored Heron and found it nestled amongst the marsh grass. Upon our arrival to the hill, conditions were comfortable with relatively good visibility. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and there was a mild breeze. Raptor activity was minimal throughout the morning, with migrating birds few and far between. Although our count was slow, we did see three species of falcons, including an adult Peregrine Falcon stooping upon potential prey in the North Quadrant, several Male Kestrels kiting in the South and West Quadrants, and a Merlin that made a beeline for the Golden Gate Bridge after popping up below the South platform. As lunchtime rolled around, the skies darkened and rain clouds closed in quickly. By 12:30, moderate rainfall meant an early closure to our count. It's certainly been a week of strange weather, but it was nice to be up on the hill today, albeit for only a couple hours. Hopefully our last meeting will bring more forgiving weather conditions and lots of great birds!

Total Sightings: 77
Hours Counted: 2.33
HPH: 33.05
Total Species: 6

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 35
Northern Harrier: 9
Red-tailed Hawk: 27
American Kestrel: 4
Merlin: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 1

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

By Emma Regnier & Veronica Pedraza & Jeremy Pallant

The Wednesday II team was greeted with a wall of thick fog upon arriving in the Marin Headlands this morning. Sightings of a vagrant Tri-colored Heron at Rodeo Lagoon prompted the team to turn their binoculars to the water's edge and scan for this Gulf Coast native while waiting for better weather. We were walking along the shore towards its last known location near the east end of the lagoon when a romp of otters appeared close to the bank! The otters took turns watching us closely and diving down to catch fish. Before we reached the end of the lagoon, another birder pulled his car over to let us know he had just seen the heron fly towards the beach. We followed suite, but saw only Snowy Egrets and waterfowl. Not wanting to give up so easily, we ventured back to the east end of the lagoon for one last look. From out of the reeds, the Tri-colored Heron appeared! It landed just in front of us, to our delight and amazement! We watched it snag a fish and everyone got great looks at its bluish plumage and rusty-brown neck. Energized by our successful heron hunt, we decided to drive up Hawk Hill to assess the visibility, but unsurprisingly, we were met with only denser fog. We're hopeful that our last hawkwatch day of the season will bring clearer skies!

Total Sightings: 0
Hours Counted: 0
HPH: 0
Total Species: 0

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

By Veronica Pedraza & Emma Regnier


It was an amazing start to the morning for the Tuesday II team when a Ferruginous Hawk appeared over Rodeo Lagoon shortly after starting our count. Its bright three points of light stood out in the distance and caught our attention. As it circled closer to Hawk Hill, we were able to get great looks at its rufous shoulders and pantaloons, field marks signifying that it was an adult bird. It soared overhead for a short while, seemingly in no rush to fly south. In the afternoon, West Quadrant spotted another surprise species: a hulking, dark bird near the Rifle Range. We caught a glimpse of its white belly and back, and its enormous dark brown wings. It was a sub-adult Bald Eagle! Amazed, the team continued to watch this large raptor circle beneath us before crossing the fog-covered bay towards the city. Just as the fog was encircling the South Quadrant, a gray ghost appeared from out of the mist. As quickly as the male harrier appeared, it vanished, before popping up in North Quadrant moments later. As the day wound down, we concluded our count with happy hearts after another great day on the hill!


Total Sightings: 229
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 38.17
Total Species: 11

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 100
Bald Eagle: 3
Northern Harrier: 20
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 12
Cooper's Hawk: 6
Red-shouldered Hawk: 2
Red-tailed Hawk: 69
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 5
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 2

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 4
Raptor: 3
Total unidentified: 7

Monday, November 11, 2019

By Maggie Brown & Emma Regnier

After the fog-filled mornings of the past few days, the Monday II team was thrilled to begin our count with sunshine and good visibility. There were several Accipiters circling the hill in the morning, including a very close adult Sharp-shinned Hawk that breezed through all four quadrants. Shortly after, hawkwatchers in the North Quadrant spotted a large, steady raptor circling over Mt. Tam. As it started flying in from the northwest, we noticed its large head and plank-like wings which helped us determine that it was an eagle. It cruised over Hawk Hill and everyone got to see its brown belly and white underwing coverts - key field marks of a juvenile Bald Eagle! We watched with admiration as it continued its journey south. Afternoon flight was relatively slow, but we finished our day with an awesome sighting of a White-tailed Kite over Slacker Ridge. We are looking forward to our final day on the hill in two weeks!

Total Sightings: 238
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 39.67
Total Species: 10

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 55
White-tailed Kite: 1
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 22
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 35
Cooper's Hawk: 4
Red-tailed Hawk: 107
American Kestrel: 2
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 1

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 4
Buteo: 3
Raptor: 1
Total unidentified: 8

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