Daily Hawk Count

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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

Sunday, November 10, 2019

By Paula Eberle & Veronica Pedraza

Stray fingers of fog lingered in the headlands this morning, but the sun broke through and the Sunday I team was able to make it up to Hawk Hill for our count. With little breeze, the day was slow but still full of excitement. Mid-day, an adult male Northern Harrier flew in lazy circles in the valley off West quadrant, accompanied by a pumpkin spice juvenile Northern Harrier that was following him around. Soon after, two boisterous male American Kestrels were sighted over the rifle range and seemed to be playing with each other. Far in the North, a juvenile Rough-legged Hawk surprised us all as it flew over the landscape. Even from a distance, the white tail shone as the bird banked in flight. Later in the day, a Merlin zoomed into view, hunting insects in the sky. We were delighted to see a successful catch and watched as the bird ate on the wing. Suddenly, the fog rushed in and enveloped the hill, causing an early end to our day, but not before the ghostly silhouette through the fog of a close Northern Harrier sent us on our way. Hope the weather clears up for tomorrow!

Total Sightings: 217
Hours Counted: 4.75
HPH: 45.68
Total Species: 11

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 50
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 17
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 19
Cooper's Hawk: 7
Red-shouldered Hawk: 2
Red-tailed Hawk: 94
Rough-legged Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 11
Merlin: 3
Peregrine Falcon: 4

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 5
Raptor: 3
Total unidentified: 8

Saturday, November 09, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant and Paula Eberle

It was another foggy morning in the Marin Headlands and hawkwatching was once again delayed by poor visibility. The Saturday I team spent the morning walking around Rodeo Lagoon, where there were several exciting raptor and non-raptor sightings. Midway through our walk, an adult Peregrine Falcon made a close run over the lagoon, before stopping on a sandbar to bathe at the water's edge. On the Eastern end of the lagoon, the hawkwatchers were greeted by an Osprey and a juvenile Northern Harrier, a good omen of the improved hawkwatching conditions to come. Our walk around the lagoon also brought several exciting non-raptor sightings, including a vocalizing Sora hiding in the marsh grass, a Surf Scoter exploring the deepest part of the lagoon, and a pair of Wilson's Snipes foraging in the mud beneath the Rodeo Lagoon Bridge. At about noon, signs of clearing skies signaled that it was time to head up to the hill. Sure enough, we were greeted by mostly clear skies in the North, East, and West quadrants, and we were able to begin our count at half-past noon. Though our count only lasted three hours, we still had some great sightings, especially in our last hour. Between 2:30 and 3:30, we spotted a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk harassing a male American Kestrel who was trying to relax on Kremin's Crag. Meanwhile, an adult female Northern Harrier lazily perused the hills surrounding the Coastal Trail. Just minutes before our count ended, we were treated to a great view of two adult Peregrine Falcons soaring above the North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Though our time on Hawk Hill was only half of what it usually is, we still enjoyed every moment of it! We look forward to seeing what's in store for our last meeting of the season in a couple weeks!

Total Sightings: 133
Hours Counted: 3
HPH: 44.33
Total Species: 9

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 22
Northern Harrier: 7
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 15
Cooper's Hawk: 6
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 72
American Kestrel: 4
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 2

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 2
Total unidentified: 2

Friday, November 08, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant

The Friday I team got off to a late start because of early morning fog that didn't let up until about 11:00 AM. When we finally made it up to the hill, we were joined by the final Migratory Story group of the season. Undeterred by the residual fog, the group from John Muir Elementary School had their heart set on seeing raptors. Though there was little raptor activity throughout most of the program, a kettle of eight Red-tailed Hawks formed in front of the South tower of the Golden Gate Bridge just as the school group was prepping to leave. Several eager young hawkwatchers immediately identified these birds as Buteos because of their size and shape. The remainder of the day brought varying amounts of visibility, as fog moved in and out of the valley throughout the afternoon. However, poor visibility didn't mean a lack of excellent sightings. Shortly after noon, the hawkwatchers in the South and West quadrants were treated to the sight of a distant Osprey, who flew briefly over Rodeo Lagoon before disappearing back into the fog over the ocean. Moments later, a male American Kestrel came whizzing by the South quadrant, showing off it's gorgeous rufous tail in the harsh afternoon sunlight. As the day was winding down, we were lucky enough to spot a Merlin that preyed upon several dragonflies before zooming out of sight behind South Slacker. The day ended abruptly when fog engulfed the top of Hawk Hill just after 3:00 PM, but after several weather cancellations earlier in the season, the Friday I team enjoyed every moment of hawkwatching that we got in today!

Total Sightings: 174
Hours Counted: 4.08
HPH: 42.65
Total Species: 10

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 22
Osprey: 1
Northern Harrier: 11
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 31
Cooper's Hawk: 6
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 94
American Kestrel: 1
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 2

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 2
Falcon: 1
Total unidentified: 3

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