Daily Hawk Count

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Thursday, November 07, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant and Paula Eberle

The Thursday I team had high hopes for our penultimate hawkwatching session of the season, but unfortunately the weather was not on our side. Heavy fog settled into the valley in the morning, obscuring visibility and nixing the possibility of getting up to Hawk Hill early. With hopes that it would clear later in the day, the Thursday I team opted to bird around Rodeo Lagoon. The lagoon did not disappoint - ducks, waders, and marsh-dwelling passerines abounded. Among the species we saw were Eared Grebes, Western Grebes, Ring-necked Ducks, American Wigeons, American Coots, Marsh Wrens, and Common Yellowthroats. We also spent quite a while watching a Great Egret, a young Double-Crested Cormorant, and a Great Blue Heron foraging for minnows at the water's edge. After an early lunch, the team opted to go to the top of the hill, hoping that conditions had improved enough to hawkwatch. While there were hints of blue sky around the peripheries of the headlands, Hawk Hill remained socked in and we had to call it quits. Although it wasn't the way we expected to be spending our second to last day out, we still enjoyed our observations of other Headlands avifauna and we have high hopes that our season will end on a high note in a couple weeks!

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

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

By Maggie Brown & Emma Regnier

Fog filled the valley this morning, so the Wednesday I team took to Rodeo Lagoon to look for waterfowl while awaiting better visibility on Hawk Hill. We saw several species of grebes swimming on the lagoon, including Western Grebes and Eared Grebes. A Surf Scoter swam solo on the far side of the lagoon, next to an American Coot wading through the reeds. Blue skies above beckoned us to caravan up to the hill. We started our count at 11 am, with good visibility around us and a small kettle of Red-tailed Hawks overhead. Just barely above a creeping layer of fog, a sub-adult Bald Eagle appeared over North Slacker! Its white belly stood out against the rest of its dark brown plumage as it soared with a Red-tailed Hawk. The fog continued to roll in and out, giving us only brief moments of clarity to scan for birds. The team remained vigilant despite the ever-encroaching fog. Eventually, the decision was made shortly after 1pm to end our count, as the fog showed no signs of retreating. The Wednesday I team is looking forward to our final day on the hill in two weeks!

Total Sightings: 105
Hours Counted: 2
HPH: 52.5
Total Species: 10

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 19
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 4
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 9
Cooper's Hawk: 8
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 58
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 1
Merlin: 1

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 1
Raptor: 1
Total unidentified: 2

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant and Emma Regnier

This morning was characterized by a pronounced inversion layer which kept Fort Cronkhite blanketed in fog. However, the Tuesday I team was pleased to find that the top of Hawk Hill was out of the fog and clear and sunny with a light breeze. Our team was grateful to have a couple extra pairs of eyes hawkwatching with us today - we had a former GGRO intern and a former hawkwatcher join us for our count today! Shortly after arriving on the hill, a juvenile Peregrine Falcon came hurtling by the hill, showing off its heavily streaked undersides and dark upperwings. In the late morning, we were lucky enough to be joined by a Migratory Story group from Paul Revere Elementary School, who excitedly watched the release of a juvenile female Sharp-shinned Hawk as part of our raptor docent program. By lunchtime, most of the fog had cleared and there was good visibility in all four quadrants. However, despite great conditions, hawk activity remained relatively slow throughout the afternoon. The definite highlight of the afternoon was an adult female and adult male Northern Harrier flying together on Rocky Ridge. The female showed off faded upperwing coverts and creamy undersides and the male gave the hawkwatchers a great look at its ghostly gray upperwings and neat white undersides. It's hard to believe that our next time out on the hill will be our last for the season, but we intend to make the most of it nonetheless!

Total Sightings: 222
Hours Counted: 5.83
HPH: 38.08
Total Species: 9

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 50
Northern Harrier: 17
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 45
Cooper's Hawk: 12
Red-shouldered Hawk: 2
Red-tailed Hawk: 84
American Kestrel: 5
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 1

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 2
Raptor: 2
Total unidentified: 4

Monday, November 04, 2019

By Veronica Pedraza & Maggie Brown

The day started with a blanket of fog covering Fort Cronkhite, but as the team made its way up to Hawk Hill, we were delighted to see blue skies overhead. Within the second hour of our count, we were surprised by a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk circling in front of the Golden Gate Bridge! These little buteos are few and far between this time of the year since their migration through the Headlands generally peaks around late September/early October. Around 11 am, we were joined by a group of students from Mission Education Center for a Migratory Story program. The students learned how to use binoculars to search for birds and were treated to a special raptor release of a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk. In the afternoon, we had a distant sighting of a juvenile Bald Eagle that soared above Angel Island and drifted across the Golden Gate. Just before the end of the day, the team had another exciting sighting when a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk popped up low in the East Quadrant. The bright white underside and face of this large buteo flashed with every turn as it drifted above Kirby Cove and gave the team a chance to admire it. While the number of overall sightings was low, the Monday I team was pleased to have high species diversity today, and we look forward to our last day out on the hill in two weeks!

Total Sightings: 169
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 28.17
Total Species: 13

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 59
White-tailed Kite: 1
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 12
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 21
Cooper's Hawk: 2
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Broad-winged Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 62
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 2
Merlin: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 1

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

Sunday, November 03, 2019

By Paula Eberle

The haze is clearing, and the birds are flying up on Hawk Hill. The Sunday II team made their way up the hill today and were immediately greeted by a male American Kestrel flying by. As they set up, some of the hawkwatchers chatted about seeing an eagle on the drive over, so spirits were high, and people were ready. As if the birds heard us talking, a juvenile Bald Eagle emerged from behind Hill 88 and flew lazily over towards the hill, displaying white patterning in its underwing coverts. Mid-day, the team saw their second eagle of the day in the form of a juvenile Golden Eagle. Its tail had clean white on the base of each feather, indicating its status as a first-year bird. Two more Golden Eagles floated by before the day was up, both seen rather far away. The day was also full of Peregrine Falcons, both juveniles and adults. Hoping this high species count stays well into next week for the other teams to enjoy!

Total Sightings: 436
Hours Counted: 5.75
HPH: 75.83
Total Species: 13

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 137
Osprey: 2
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 17
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 39
Cooper's Hawk: 17
Red-shouldered Hawk: 3
Red-tailed Hawk: 195
Ferruginous Hawk: 3
Golden Eagle: 3
American Kestrel: 4
Merlin: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 5

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 5
Buteo: 3
Falcon: 1
Total unidentified: 9

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