Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Slow Season Thus Far-Very Slow Compared to the Previous 16 Years

Leaders: February 25-March 20:
Hal Cohen
Judy Davis
Rose Leong
Herb Stone
Laura Webb

February 25-March 20: 607 Swainson's Hawks; 34 Turkey Vultures

Southern California is experiencing a remarkable flower bloom. With the exceptional bloom we are witnessing a White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar explosion. Because caterpillars are found in numerous locations, Swainson's Hawks have ample opportunities to feed during the northward migration. Borrego Valley is only one small area for hawks to feed in. I believe that the radically low numbers of SW's is a result of widespread feeding and not a diminished Swainson's Hawk population. To date (March 20), we have counted only 607 Swainson's Hawks from February 25 to March 20th. The total count for 2019 is 615 Swainson's Hawks. Traditionally by this period we should have counted a few thousand SW's. Regardless of the low numbers we have had some great views on occasion. Below are some photo's and movies. Check out the youtube of March 18.

Ocotillo Wells-HC

                                           Blow Sands Area Near Borrego Springs-HC

5 Swainson's in Eucalyptus Tree-Borrego Valley Rd. David Nevett
Leaving the Roost-David Nevett
Rufous Morph Swainson's Hawk-William Carter

Subadult Intermidiate (Rufous) Morph SW's-Krisztina Scheeff

White-tailed Kite-Krisztina Scheeff

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Begin a New Season-2019-Possible Super Bloom Again

February 21-Judy Smith
February 22-Laura Webb
February 23-Hal Cohen
February 24-Herb Stone

February 21-1 Turkey Vulture
February 22-8 Turkey Vultures; 1 Swainson's Hawk
February 23-33 Turkey Vultures; 2 Swainson's Hawks
February 24-13 Turkey Vultures: 5 Swainson's Hawks

It has been a very cold rainy winter season. We've had over 7 inches of rain over a period of weeks. There are numerous flower hot spots surrounding Borrego Springs. With the warmup beginning Sunday February 24 we could experience another super bloom, lots of caterpillars and thousands of hawks. So far only a handful of hawks has migrated through the valley. However it looks like more Turkey Vultures are venturing into the valley.

Evening Watch:
No hawks and one TV were evident this evening (Feb 24th). There are TV's roosting in the usual spot in the Roadrunner

Early February Flowers Along Near Arroyo Salada-S22-HC

Entering Borrego Springs From Ranchita-February 23, 2019

Thursday, April 5, 2018

End of Season Posting-March 30-April 1, 2018

March 30-Laura Webb
March 31-Don Wilson
April 1-Don Wilson

March 30-Swainson's Hawks-31
March 31-Swainson's Hawks-25; Turkey Vultures-1
April 1-Swainson's Hawks-391; Turkey Vultures-5

We ended the season with a nice SW number. Several large kettles of hawks provided great looks for folks. Occasionally we will monitor the evening site just in case a large number of hawks arrives. However the official count is complete for the 2018 season.

This season we did not experience a wildflower bloom. This might be the single most important factor determining the number of hawks that utilize Borrego Valley as a stop-over destination.

We logged only 81.75 hours in 2018, our lowest number by far. The average number of Swainson's Hawks for 16 years is 4,737. This season we observed 4,172 SW's.

Here are several shots of hawks taken by our photographers.
Adult Male SW-David Nevett

SW-David Nevett

Dark Morph SW-David Nevett

Dark Morph-David Nevett

David Nevett

Adult Light Morph and Light Intermediate Morph-David Nevett
SW Unusual posture-David Nevett

In Palo Verde-also unusual-David Nevett

Adult Dark Morph-David Nevitt

Light Intermediate-David Nevitt

Subadult Dark Morph Swainson's Hawk-Dave Clark

Adult Female Light Morph-Dave Clark

Nice side shot-Dave Clark

Adult Female Light Morph-Dave Clark

Intermediate Morph-Dave Clark
Dark Morph SW-Tom Lawrence

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Nearing the End of the Count-March 29,2018

Hal Cohen

Swainson's Hawks-3

Yesterday evening we did not see a hawk drop into town. With this ominous sign we began today's watch. Only 3 Swanson's Hawks migrated today, one very close to the watch.

The hawkwatch will officially close after the count on April 1, 2018. We will continue to monitor hawks at the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd. If a number of hawks arrives in town we will inform folks.

I have been asked where the Date Farm (Evans Ranch) is located. The evening site as we call it is 1.7 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Rd. We meet there from around 5:30pm until dark. We will be winding down soon as the watch comes to an end. If you look at data from the you will see some action in early April. When accesses, hit monthly and then scroll down to Borrego Valley. You can check out our data starting in 2003.

Evening Watch:
Only 5 Swainson's Hawks observed this evening (March 29)

Light wind is predicted for tomorrow. Lift-off the few hawks in town will be late (8:30-9:30am).
Ready to Take Off-David Nevett

Windblown-David Nevett

Light Intermediate Morph-David Nevett
Very Early Kettle-6:40AM-David Nevett

Large Kettle-David Nevett

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

March 27 and 28th, 2018-A Banner Day-470 Swainson's Hawks Up Close and Personal March 27th-Surprise on March 28th

March 27-Pam Albers
March 28-Hal Cohen

March 27-Swainson's Hawks-470
March 28-Swainson's Hawks-153; Turkey Vultures-11

As predicted the hawks began migrating before 7am. However a few hundred hawks flew low and west for 2 more hours. We established the count a mile north of Palm Canyon Drive on DiGiorgio Rd. For 3 hours hawks moved past us 20 yards above. A few hundred were perched in trees and on the ground. Kettles from the Date Farm and Roadrunner continued to form for our watch period.

March 28th was a surprise as the evening before yielded only a few SW's. The day started with a few hawks on the ground and one in the tamarisks near the count site. By 8:45am kettles began to form to the east. Before the day was finished 153 Swainson's migrated.

Evening Watch:


First Light-6:30am-HC

A Closer View-Janet Lyons

Nice Rufous (Intermediate) SW-HC

First Big Kettle-Janet Lyons

Monday, March 26, 2018

Huge Kettle in Town-Monday Evening March 26, 2018-Estimates from 200-500 Swainson's Hawks

March 22, 2018-Herb Stone/Judy Davis
March 23-Pam Albers
March 24-Herb Stone/Judy Davis
March 25-Rose Leong
March 26-Herb Stone

March 22-Swainson's Hawks-2
March 23-Swainson's Hawks-1
March 24-Swainson's Hawks-145; TV's-6
March 25-Swainson's Hawks-8
March 26-Swainson's Hawks-3

Finally we had an evening fly-in on March 23rd. After 7pm 30-40 Swainson's Hawks were observed coming into the Date Farm. On Saturday March 24 most took off early with a stiff wind. Fortunately some remained in the area for some of the watchers. The total was typically more than the observed the evening before.

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Evening Watch:
Monday March 26-A large kettle of SW's was spotted to the east. They formed kettles, streamed and reformed. They began to settle down near the airport and rose up again. Finally most dropped into the Date Farm (Evans Ranch). Do not climb the gate to get photos. We are estimating between 200 and 500 Swainson's Hawks are in the valley.

Tomorrow Tuesday March 27th may have some breeze early in the morning. It is possible that hawks will begin to kettle up by 6:30 or 7am. Hopefully the breeze will hold off and the hawks will move later. Our experience in the past has shown that not all of the hawks will leave early. So some may be taking off around 8:30am. Viewing from DiGiorgio Rd near Big Horn and at the day count site (just south of Henderson Canyon Rd on DiGiorgio Rd might be good. Also with the sun to the east, the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd near the Date Farm would be an alternate.

Dark Swainson's Hawk-David Nevitt

Adult Light Male Intermediate Morph-David Nevitt

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Swainson's Hawk Migration March 14-18, 2018

March 14-Judy Davis
March 15-Rose Leong
March 16-Pam Albers
March 17-Rose Leong
March 18-Hal Cohen
March 19-Pam Albers
March 20-Step Wilson
March 21-Laura Webb

March 14-Swainson's Hawks-18
March 15-Swainson's Hawks-0
March 16-Swainson's Hawks-670
March 17-Swainson's Hawks-155; Turkey Vultures-2
March 18-Swainson's Hawks-8
March 19-Swainson's Hawks-35
March 20-Swainson's Hawks-68
March 21-Swainson's Hawks-29

     We have had great days and then some lulls. The hawks are pulsing through. Without a steady source of food we are not getting the numbers we usually expect. This implies that hawks are passing through without stopping. Although some hawks are feeding on Flying Ants.The number of hawks should pick up in the following days. Roost sites are split between the old Elis Farm, Date Farm (Evans Ranch) and Roadrunner Club. Although we expect more hawks, we have had around 3,000 already move through the area. We have now surpassed March numbers for 6 of the 15 years of observations.
     Below is a shot of hawks roosting at the Date Farm (Evans Ranch). Someone jumped the entrance fence to approach these hawks and they scattered. Two things occurred-the person that jumped the fence was trespassing and it is a federal offense to knowingly approach threatened birds and disturbing them.
Evening Watch:
Only a few hawks came in this evening, Wednesday March 21.

Hopefully there are hawks roosting in outlying areas. The wind should pick up this evening and any hawks will leave early. The expectation of more migrants keeps us coming back every day.

The Hawks That Were Disturbed by a Photographer-This Was Taken Outside the Fence by David Nevett. 

Early Kettle of SW's-Craig Chaddock
Beginning to Stream-Craig Chaddock

Nice Dark Morph Swainson's-Craig Chaddock