Daily Hawk Count

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Saturday, November 02, 2019

By Paula Eberle & Emma Regnier

It was a quiet morning on Hawk Hill. The Saturday II team was in high spirits, and mid-morning brought the first of many Red-tailed Hawk and Turkey Vulture sightings. The morning also brought the first of a handful of adult female Northern Harriers, including one individual carrying prey in its talons. A group of students from Cal State Berkeley joined us on the hill today as a fieldtrip for their Neuro-zoology class. They learned about both behavior and adaptation of raptors, before getting a close look at a passing juvenile Peregrine Falcon. Mid-day brought some excitement, as a male American Kestrel was seen diving on a wayward juvenile Red-tailed Hawk just in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. As the day moved on, several adult Sharp-shinned Hawks blew past the hill and over the bay. Their steel-blue dorsal plumage shone in the sun as they continued on with migration. All in all, it was a pleasant day in the headlands.

Total Sightings: 319
Hours Counted: 5.83
HPH: 54.72
Total Species: 10

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 107
Osprey: 1
Northern Harrier: 14
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 26
Cooper's Hawk: 6
Red-shouldered Hawk: 3
Red-tailed Hawk: 141
American Kestrel: 3
Merlin: 3
Peregrine Falcon: 3

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 5
Buteo: 5
Falcon: 1
Raptor: 1
Total unidentified: 12

Friday, November 01, 2019

By Paula Eberle

The Friday II team was excited when they walked on Hawk Hill today, accompanied by a breeze from the East and warm, clear skies. Two fast moving male American Kestrels zoomed by the hill within the first half hour of our count and were just as quickly identified and recorded. The rest of the morning was a little slow, with the wind staying primarily from the East, and most of the birds that were seen were far away. Between the hours of 10 and 11 am, one of those far birds turned into a Rough-legged Hawk, the third sighting of our season! As the day moved on, the winds began to come from the Northwest, and large kettles of Red-tailed Hawks filled the sky, keeping our hawkwatchers busy. The last hour of our count, however, was truly spectacular. Just after the rotation at 2:30 pm, a dark-morph adult Red-tailed Hawk flew in from the West and gave us all a great view of its chocolate belly and underwing coverts. Less than five minutes later, a large white raptor emerged from behind the South platform. The team was excited to see that it was a juvenile Rough-legged Hawk, flying close to the hill as it made its way North! The dark carpal patches were easily seen with the naked eye as this large Buteo flew past us. Soon after, an adult male Northern Harrier was seen skimming the bushes beneath North Quadrant and stayed near the hill for the rest of the hour. The grand finale of the day came from a close encounter with an adult Ferruginous Hawk! The rusty colored "leggings" of this adult were clearly seen as it floated above the hill, then left to the North in a similar manner to the Rough-legged Hawk seen just a half-an-hour earlier. Today was a truly great day, and we hope the weekend flight stays strong!

Total Sightings: 560
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 93.33
Total Species: 12

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 147
Osprey: 1
Northern Harrier: 22
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 33
Cooper's Hawk: 29
Red-shouldered Hawk: 11
Red-tailed Hawk: 292
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
Rough-legged Hawk: 2
American Kestrel: 4
Merlin: 2
Peregrine Falcon: 6

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 5
Buteo: 3
Raptor: 2
Total unidentified: 10

Thursday, October 31, 2019

By Jeremy Pallant and Maggie Brown

It's Halloween and the Thursday II hawkwatchers were eager to see what surprises the day had in store. In the early morning, the wind was howling and birds were speeding by the hill. The high winds brought several raptors close to the hill, including multiple adult Accipiters. The males showed off their slate-blue topsides in the beaming sunlight, and several adults of both sexes gave the hawkwatchers great views of their rufous-barred undersides. However, the undisputed highlight of the morning was spotted by our hawkwatchers in South Quadrant during the 11-12 hour. Among a kettle of Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks, a large backlit bird rose up from beneath the VA Hospital. The hawkwatchers were able to see that the bird was considerably larger than the other birds with which it was kettling, but intense glare made it difficult to identify. As the bird moved toward the Golden Gate Bridge, the large raptor showed off a gorgeous white tail and head and its identity was unmistakable - an adult Bald Eagle! The cooperative eagle spent several minutes on the Southeastern side of the hill before passing 15-20 yards in front of the East Quadrant on its way north. Shortly after the Bald Eagle's departure, another large raptor arose from the Southwest, showing off clean white undersides and inky wingtips. Without hesitation, several hawkwatchers identified it as a juvenile Ferruginous Hawk. In the afternoon, winds calmed down noticeably and raptors emerged in large numbers. Between noon and 3:00 PM, we averaged well over 100 raptors per hour, including high numbers of Northern Harriers and Red-shouldered Hawks. By day's end, we had accumulated over 500 birds of 12 different species! All in all, it was a beautiful autumn day of hawkwatching. Happy Halloween to all!

Total Sightings: 517
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 86.17
Total Species: 12

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 146
White-tailed Kite: 1
Bald Eagle: 1
Northern Harrier: 23
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 53
Cooper's Hawk: 29
Red-shouldered Hawk: 8
Red-tailed Hawk: 242
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 1
Merlin: 7
Peregrine Falcon: 4

Unidentified...
Falcon: 1
Total unidentified: 1

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

By Veronica Pedraza & Emma Regnier & Jeremy Pallant

Walking up to Hawk Hill, we held on tightly to our hats as gusts of wind blew all around us. A pair of adult Peregrine Falcons coasted in overhead, dancing in the wind like aerial acrobats. Soon after, Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, and Northern Harriers popped up from the surrounding hillsides and gained altitude quickly in the strong breeze. One dark Red-tailed Hawk caught the attention of everyone on the hill. Its body was almost jet-black, with streaks of white in its chest and on its head, and it showed wavy barring along its flight feathers. Despite having the dark trailing edge of an adult Red-tail, its tail had only a brush of red near the tip and was otherwise silvery in color. This unusual visitor was none other than a Harlan's Hawk, a sub-species of Red-tailed Hawk and a real treat for the hawkwatchers. In the spirit of Halloween Eve, an adult male Northern Harrier, or Gray Ghost, appeared in the late afternoon and circled the hill closely before disappearing as quickly as he had appeared. We can't wait to see what kind of interesting birds November brings for the Wednesday II team!

Total Sightings: 327
Hours Counted: 6
HPH: 54.5
Total Species: 10

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 96
White-tailed Kite: 1
Northern Harrier: 16
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 15
Cooper's Hawk: 10
Red-shouldered Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 168
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
American Kestrel: 1
Peregrine Falcon: 7

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 2
Buteo: 3
Falcon: 1
Raptor: 5
Total unidentified: 11

Saturday, October 26, 2019

By Paula Eberle & Jeremy Pallant

Saturday I had a slower day today up on Hawk Hill. Haze, combined with little to no wind, stuck around the hill until about 1:30, when we finally got a nice little breeze coming in from the Southwest. With low air movement, the raptors weren't moving much, but they still gave us great views. Three juvenile Northern Harriers joined us mid-day and scuffled in the sky in front of the North quadrant platform. Their pumpkin bellies and white rump patches flashed as they twisted and turned around each other. A bit later, a Western Meadowlark landed in a tree, much to the surprise of a nearby adult Red-tailed Hawk. The hawk proceeded to chase the Meadowlark around, before flying on its way through the bay. What we lacked in raptors, we made up for in Band-tailed Pigeons, with large groups flying over the hill throughout the count. A couple of fast-moving Merlins gave us our only falcon sightings of the day as they zoomed by South Platform and hurried into the city. Overall, the team had a fun time on the hill!

Total Sightings: 208
Hours Counted: 5.83
HPH: 35.68
Total Species: 7

Species Counts:
Turkey Vulture: 51
Northern Harrier: 8
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 12
Cooper's Hawk: 19
Red-shouldered Hawk: 2
Red-tailed Hawk: 104
Merlin: 2

Unidentified...
Accipiter: 5
Buteo: 1
Falcon: 3
Raptor: 1
Total unidentified: 10

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