Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/12/16

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~I was trying to remember taking this photo, I’m pretty sure this is a local Red-tailed Hawk rather than one of the 19 migrants we had at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today, 11/12/16.~

Well, sadly today was my final day as official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch for the 2016 season. It was a gorgeous day to be on the mountain; sunny and cold with a moderate northwest wind. Judy Cinquina joined me for most of the day, and although the conversation was more plentiful than migrating raptors, we still had a pretty good flight, with 31  birds which included a pretty good variety. Highlights for me included good looks at two adult Bald Eagles, two adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and a brief look at a bird that always seems to be on a mission – a Merlin. Photos were tough to come by, even the vultures and passerines seemed to keep their distance today.

It was another excellent season for me at Mt. Pete; I had decent flights every Saturday except the two where I was rained out. And, I feel like I continued to learn and improve my hawk watching skills. It’s sad to think it’s another 10 1/2 months until I’ll be at it again. I should mention that you still have a few days to go to the watch – official counters will continue to be there until Tuesday November 15th.

Here’s my report for the day:

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Official Counter: Matt Zeitler
Observers: B.A. McGrath, Judith C. Cinquina

Visitors: Paul Skonberg

Weather:
Sunny with very few clouds and a moderate northwest wind. Temperatures ranged from 0 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
Two adult Bald Eagles and 2 adult Red-shouldered hawks.

Non-raptor Observations:
Non-raptor Species: European Starling (22), American Robin (24), Canada Goose (15), American Crow (18), Black-capped Chickadee (7), Tufted Titmouse (4), Ring-billed Gull (8), Herring Gull (1), Common Raven (2), Blue Jay (21), Cedar Waxwing (3), Dark-eyed Junco (2), White-breasted Nuthatch (2).

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~This bird was MUCH better in person. An adult Red-shouldered Hawk migrates directly over the viewing platform at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/12/16.~

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/5/16

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~This Northern Harrier is NOT from Mt. Peter Hawkwatch; I stopped by the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR on Wednesday afternoon 11/2/16 to try for the Northern Shrike that had been seen there but didn’t have any luck. But, I did enjoy a nice walk on the trails of the reserve with Mary B. and photographed this NOHA.~

My Saturday shift counting at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch was steady but not exactly exciting. WNW winds provided me with 47 migrating raptors, consisting of mostly Red-tailed Hawks (22). Raptor highlights for me were decent looks at 3 adult Red-shouldered Hawks, and a distant look at a migrating ‘Gray Ghost’, an adult male Northern Harrier. My non-raptor highlight was 6 Common Loons – one group of four, and two singles. Photos were scarce for the day, but thankfully visitors were not. I enjoyed the company of Linda Scrima, Judy Cinquina, Maria Loukerisk, and Rob Pirie. Huge thanks to all four for their help spotting birds too.  Here’s my report for the day:

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Total observation time: 7.5 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Observers: Judith C. Cinquina

Visitors:
Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and Rob Pirie.

Weather:
Cloudy and cool with a WNW wind. Temperatures ranged from 5 to 13 degrees Celsius

Raptor Observations:
One adult Bald Eagle, one male Northern Harrier, and three adult Red-shouldered Hawks.

Non-raptor Observations:
Non-Raptor Species: Dark-eyed Junco (15), Black-capped Chickadee (9), American Robin (168), American Goldfinch (4), Common Raven (2), Eastern Bluebird (2), White-breasted Nuthatch (3), Tufted Titmouse (2), Cedar Waxwing (18), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Purple Finch (1), Canada Goose (14), Common Loon (6)

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~My only decent photo op of the day was this low flying Turkey Vulture. I am grateful to the TUVUs for the photo ops, as well as their help in locating other migrating raptors. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/5/16.~ 
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~American Pipit in the Black Dirt on 11/1/16. This was a fabulous night as I had my first Snow Buntings of the season and my first LAPLAND LONGSPUR of the year. The LALO was bird #210 on my 2016 Orange County  year list.~
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~I should have done better with this bird, but it just didn’t happen. One of 2 very cooperative Golden-crowned Kinglets at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Friday evening, 11/4/16.~

Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16

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~GOLDEN EAGLE at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 

I was pretty sure that hawkwatch would be a dud this past Saturday. Southwest winds were in the forecast and the previous day’s count was on the low side (with a northwest wind!). Early on, it seemed like I was right; the watch got off to a very slow start, and I have to say, I was super cranky about it. I did not have a raptor of any sort for the first two hours and fifteen minutes, when I finally had a local Red-tailed Hawk hunting over the valley. Migrating birds started to trickle through shortly after that, but really, it was a slow day.

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~GOEA at Mt. Pete, 10/29/16.~ 

Things started looking up when I got a visit from Gerhard and Tracy Patsch. We had some interesting conversations, and they seemed to have brought one of the local Red-tails along with them. It was the first time that I’ve had a local “tail” perch and hunt in the viewing platform area. And then bird put on a final show for us, hanging in the air directly above the platform and not very high up. The three of us really enjoyed great looks and I took many photos.

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~Golden Eagle, apparently looking right at me?  Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~

The highlight of the day came at 3:45 pm, when I counted just my 20th migrating raptor of the day, which was the GOLDEN EAGLE. I picked it up due north of the platform; it was distant but I knew immediately that it was an eagle and very shortly after that, that it was a Golden. As luck would have it, the bird flew slowly closer and passed at a nice easy pace right over the platform, circling several times before continuing due south. What a thrill it was, I am still freaking out about it a day later. The Golden Eagle is the 209th bird that I’ve had in Orange County this year. Here’s my report for the day:

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Official Counter: Matt Zeitler

Visitors: Gerhard and Tracy Patsch, Tricia Zeitler, Carrie and Cruz Craigmyle, Bill, Carolyn, Cameron, and Mackenzie Martocci.

Weather: Partly cloudy with a southwest wind. Temperatures ranged from 4 to 18 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations: It was a slow start; the first raptor observed was a local Red-tailed Hawk over 2 hours and 15 minutes into the watch. One female Northern Harrier and at 3:45 one immature Golden Eagle passed through, circling right over the view platform, giving amazing views.

Non Raptor Species: American Crow (28), Blue Jay (24), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), Black-capped Chickadee (9), American Robin (32), Common Raven (2), Cedar Waxwing (25), Tufted Titmouse (1), Downy Woodpecker (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Ring-billed Gull (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Eastern Bluebird (5), Canada Goose (6), European Starling (20).

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~GOEA at Mt. Pete Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~
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~I know, a lot of Golden Eagle shots, but when will I get this opportunity again? GOEA at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
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~This young Red-tailed Hawk put on quite a show. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
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~Going in for the kill, RTHA at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16. Unfortunately the bird came up empty on this attempt. 
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~Local Red-tailed Hawk cruising by, Mt. Pete Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
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~And, the local Tail checking out the situation from directly above the platform, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~ 
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~RTHA at Mt. Pete 10/29/16.~ 
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And, finally, the obligatory Turkey Vulture photo. Even the vultures were sparse on this day at Mt. Pete, 10/29/16.~

Wow! GOLDEN EAGLE!

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~GOLDEN EAGLE!!!! at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/29/16.~

SUPER QUICK POST: We have family visiting for the weekend, so no time for a real post, but I had an immature GOLDEN EAGLE at Mount Peter Hawkwatch this afternoon! The bird made a relatively low pass over the viewing platform, allowing for incredible views and and decent photos. Full hawkwatch report to follow tomorrow!

Mount Peter – The Friendly One

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~This was taken during a quick stop at Wickham Lake on my way up to Mount Peter, Red-tailed Hawk with flipped wing tip, 10/23/16.~

Mount Peter Ski Area is known as “The Friendly One”. I think the same can be said for Mount Peter Hawkwatch, where the birding is great but camaraderie is awesome too. I was basically rained out yesterday (I managed only one relatively rain-free hour at the watch, where I had 5 Sharp-shinned Hawks stream through), so I headed up to Mount Pete this morning get my fix. There was a strong WNW wind and I was hoping for a good flight and maybe even a Golden Eagle. I wasn’t the only one that had that idea – Mt. Pete counters Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, and Denise Farrell all joined me and the official counter of the day, Ken Witkowski on the viewing platform. There were also several visitors and they all seemed to be serious hawkwatchers too. It was a great group and I really enjoyed my time up there today. Birding often serves as an escape for me, time to get away from everything and everyone, but hawkwatching is one of the exceptions to this and the social aspect is often just as rewarding as the birding.

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~A full viewing platform in late October, Mount Peter Hawkwatch 10/23/16.~

As for the hawks – the wind was very strong up on the mountain, making it difficult to keep my binoculars steady and early on, I wondered if the wind was too strong for a good flight. Thankfully, that was not the case. In the 4 hours I spent on the mountain, we had a good Sharp-shinned Hawk flight with over 40 Sharpies being counted. Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks were also moving a little bit, with 10 and 5 birds counted respectively. It was interesting to us that on a day with such strong winds, it was the little Sharpie that was braving the wind, rather than the larger birds. We had only two Bald Eagles while I was there, one was a local bird that headed north, and the other migrated. As for Golden Eagles, I’m sure one migrated through shortly after I left the watch (as of this writing the report had not been completed). It was a great day at the watch and it made up nicely for missing my day of counting yesterday.

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~I’ve never had a Red-tailed Hawk hang directly over the platform before; the bird is looking straight down at us! Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/23/16.~
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~I love how the alulae show so well in this photo.  According to dictionary.com, an alula is also called bastard wing, spurious wing. The group of three to six small, rather stiff feathers growing on the first digit, pollex, or thumb of a bird’s wing. Red-tailed Hawk over Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/23/16.~ 
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~I stopped at Citgo Pond on my way home and finally got lucky and got a shot of a RUSTY BLACKBIRD, 10/23/16. This one made me happy.~ 
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~The most colorful bird of the day, a Blue-headed Vireo at Citgo Pond, 10/23/16.~ 

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/15/16

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~Ahhh. The obligatory Turkey Vulture photo. I’ve been slacking on these guys this season; I finally got one today. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 10/15/16.~ 

I was not very optimistic as I headed out to do my Saturday of counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. The wind direction was not going to be favorable, and additionally, the forecast was for clear blue skies all day, which is a hawkwatcher’s worst sky. I was pleasantly surprised to have a pretty good flight in spite of the adverse conditions. I had a total of 52 migrating raptors, most of which were Sharp-shinned Hawks. The highlight of the day was getting absolutely killer looks at a couple of adult Red-shouldered Hawks in the scope as they migrated through. Big thanks to Denise Farrell who helped me out for most of the day. Here’s my report:

screen-shot-2016-10-15-at-6-54-09-pmOfficial Counter: Matt Zeitler
Observers: Denise Farrell

Visitors:
Pam Bryant and Joe Zera

Weather:
Sunny with almost no clouds. Gentle winds from the east early on and shifting to the south. Temperatures ranged from 6 to 19 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
-One immature Bald Eagle -One unknown, one immature, and 3 adult Red-shouldered Hawks. -One unknown American Kestrel

Non-raptor Observations:
Other species: Cedar Waxwing (30), American Crow (13), Common Raven (4), Black-capped Chickadee (6), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), Blue Jay (25), Canada Goose (11), Northern Cardinal (1), American Goldfinch (5), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Blackpoll Warbler (1), Eastern Bluebird (2), Yellow-rumped Warbler (4), American Robin (2), House Finch (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Ring-billed Gull (4), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1).

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~Blackpoll Warbler at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/15/16.~ 
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~One of my favorites – Yellow-bellied Sapsucker located by Denise at Mt. Pete today, 10/15/16.~

Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/8/16

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~So this photo was NOT taken today. Local Red-tailed Hawk at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/7/16.~

I counted at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, and it was a pretty good day. The rain held off and the heavy cloud cover kept the birds low. Actually, it was a really good morning with many birds flying very low and giving excellent looks, but then the afternoon was less productive. Kyle Dudgeon is home from college for the weekend and he spent most of the day helping me out with his young eyes. We had two Sharp-shinned Hawks take a run at the owl, one of which flew right at Kyle’s head, turning off at the very last second. In the early afternoon Maria Loukeris and Heather Thoma stopped by and brought the best songbirds of the day; we had a Blue-headed Vireo, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. To see more data on Mount Peter or any other hawkwatch, you can visit Hawkcount. Here’s my report for the day.

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Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 15:30:00
Total observation time: 7.5 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler

Visitors:
Kyle Dudgeon, Maria Loukeris, and Heather Thoma.

Weather:
Very cloudy with a very slight wind from the south. Temperatures ranged from 13 to 20 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
It was a fun day at the watch with most birds flying quite low. Two Sharp-shinned Hawks and one Merlin took a pass at the owl, giving really great looks. One immature Northern Harrier and one unknown American Kestrel.

Non-raptor Observations:
Other Species: Black-capped Chickadee (4), Tufted Titmouse (3), Blue Jay (65), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), European Starling (14), American Crow (2), Common Raven (2), Eastern Bluebird (3), Cedar Waxwing (30), Northern Flicker (2), American Robin (72), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-winged Blackbird (18), American Goldfinch (16), Mourning Dove (3), Double-crested Cormorant (3), Eastern Phoebe (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Eastern Towhee (1), Blue-headed Vireo (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), and Monarch Butterfly (2).

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~This was more typical of the lighting situation today; a Sharp-shinned Hawk goes for the owl at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/8/16.~
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~One of a couple of Mourning Doves that cruised right in front of the viewing platform at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/8/16.~

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 9/24/16

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~A Cape May Warbler pokes its head out at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 9/24/16.~ 

I had a pretty good day at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, especially early in the morning while there was a good northwest wind and heavy cloud cover. I had 435 migrating hawks, with 407 of them being Broad-winged Hawks. I had many visitors today, and I want to thank them because they were instrumental in finding many of the raptors, especially once the clouds had cleared and the birds were harder to locate. Here’s my report for the day:

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Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 16:00:00
Total observation time: 8 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Observers: Rob Stone

Visitors:
Luke Driscoll, Thomas Driscoll, Mike Limatoli, Sue Dougherty, Peter & Glyn Nixon, Anne and Phil Ribolow, and Matt Vrydacjis.

Weather:
Cloudy and cool for the first hour and a half of the watch, then nearly cloudless and warm for the remainder. Wind from the northwest for most of the day. Temperatures ranged from 13 to 21 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
One adult and one immature Bald Eagle, one unknown Northern Harrier, one unknown Red-shouldered Hawk, and one male American Kestrel.

Non-raptor Observations:
Non Raptor Species: Highlight was a flock of approximately 30 Double-crested Cormorants that passed through, which was very interesting to watch. Other species: Blue Jay (85), Black-capped Chickadee (2), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Common Raven (2), American Crow (4), Northern Flicker (1), American Goldfinch (2), Ring-billed Gull (7), Chimney Swift (2), Cape May Warbler (2).

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~One of the local Common Ravens in flight. One day I will get a decent shot of one of these birds. Mt. Pete, 9/24/16.~ 
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~This Cooper’s Hawk was the only bird to go for my new plastic owl that was mounted high above the viewing platform. It was a tough day for photos for me for some reason, and of course this bird came at the owl with the sun at its back.  Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 9/24/16.~ 

Mt. Peter is Heating Up

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~Eight Broad-winged Hawks at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. They  were part of a 38 bird kettle late this afternoon, 9/15/16.~ 

Things are starting to heat up at Mount Peter Hawkwatch; right now is prime time for Broad-winged Hawk migration. In the past three days they have counted over 1,300 migrating BWHAs. I was up on the mountain on Tuesday and although I did get some birds, I didn’t have any kettles of Broadies. Today was a different story, I got my first taste of the Broad-winged Hawk migration, seeing two smaller kettles pass over the viewing platform, one with 38 birds and the other with 48 birds. I’m looking forward to seeing how many Broadies we will get this year!

On a side note, I was out of commission last weekend as I was away on a golf trip in Vermont. This weekend we are spending an extended weekend up in the Adirondacks. I plan on doing plenty of birding while I’m there, so I will certainly post about it next Thursday when we return.

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch Begins!

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~This was very exciting to me – Red-breasted Nuthatch at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/3/16. This is my 197th bird in Orange County for the year.~

The hawkwatch season at Mount Peter finally began this past Thursday. I made my first visit on Friday, joining the official counter for the day, Denise Farrell in the early afternoon. Raptor migration was on the slow side for most of the day, but she had been entertained by the several RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES that were in the area. I was excited to hear about these birds because I did not have them in Orange County for the year. It took a little while, but one finally made an brief appearance, I didn’t get any photos, but still, I was happy. Meanwhile, the hawks were starting to move through. In the 2 1/2 hours I was there, we had 22 raptors migrate through, giving Denise a total of 27 for the day. The highlight for me was a ‘mini-kettle’ of five Broad-winged Hawks observed over the valley.

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~Time to start with the obligatory Turkey Vulture shot from the mountain. I plan on doing better than this one. TUVU at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 9/2/16.

Today was my first day of the season as official counter. Right off the bat I knew it could be a good day when I had two very close Red-breasted Nuthatches on the trail from the parking lot to the viewing platform. And I was able to get some photos!

Being so early in the year, I figured I would not have any company. I could not have been more wrong. I had plenty of help, especially early in the day, with visits from Rob Stone, Beverly Robertson, Will Test, Diane Held, Maria Loukeris, Sharon Ayling, Tom Mitchell, and PJ Singh. It was a pretty good day especially for being so early in the season; I had a total of 31 migrating raptors in 7 hours. The highlight for me was watching a local adult Bald Eagle escort an immature migrant Bald Eagle through the area. Once the young bird had gone far enough, the adult turned back and headed north. Here is my report for the day:

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 6.26.37 PMOfficial Counter: Matt Zeitler
Observers: Beverly Robertson, Rob Stone, Will Test

Visitors:
Sharon Ayling, Tom Mitchell, Maria Loukeris, Diane Held, and PJ Singh.

Weather:
Warm, sunny with clouds. Gentle winds mostly out of the North/Northeast. Temperatures ranged from 18 to 22 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
Migrating Raptors: One unknown American Kestrel migrated in the first hour. In the 6th hour an adult Bald Eagle escorted an immature Bald Eagle through the territory. The immature migrated and the adult went back north. Non-migrating Raptors: Two local Red-tailed Hawks and many local Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures.

Non-raptor Observations:
Other bird species observed: Blue Jay (15), Red-breasted Nuthatch (3), Cedar Waxwing (24), Common Raven (1), American Robin (18), American Crow (3), American Goldfinch (15), Gray Catbird (2), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Scarlet Tanager (1), Black-capped Chickadee (4), Northern Flicker (2), Rock Pigeon (1), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Chimney Swift (3).

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~Pretty shot of a Yellow-rumped Warbler Cape May Warbler at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/2/16. UPDATE: thanks to Marianne O. who emailed me to point out that I had misidentified this bird. This an exciting mistake for me as CMWA is #198 on my OC year list!~
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~I did not have many photo ops for migrating raptors, so I’ve included this distant shot of an Osprey that passed right over the viewing platform. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 9/3/16.~

SHOREBIRD UPDATE: I’ve also checked 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary for new shorebirds the past couple of days. The only new birds that I have observed were a couple of SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS. I have not been in the black dirt but have received reports that Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers are still being seen.

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~These little dudes are the cutest! Semipalmated Plover at the Citgo Pond, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/2/16.~
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~I was getting a kick out of watching this Greater Yellowlegs feeding frantically. Nice, muddy bird. Citgo Pond, 9/3/16.~