Sunday, February 19, 2017

First Evening Watch of the Season-Over 200 Swainson's Hawks Have Arrived-February 19, 2017

As a prelude to the beginning of the hawk season (Monday February 20, 2017). We were surprised by a large incoming kettle of hawks. Over 200 Swainson's Hawks have descended into the Date Farm.

Discussion:Tomorrow morning should be interesting. Our first day at the watch. Will the SW's stay in the valley?There are flowers and some caterpillars. Although the number of caterpillars are sparse, they might attract some of the hawks to begin feeding.

Remember the new official count site is at the end of DiGiorgio Rd. We will have someone posted there tomorrow at 8am.

The wind should be down tomorrow so takeoff will be rather late. Expect birds in the air between 8 and 9am or even later. The hawks are located in Eucalyptus trees in the Date Farm. We will have a spotter near the site (about 1.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Rd.).
First Large Caterpillar of the Season-Last Week-Steve Bier

Part of the large group of Swainson's Hawks in Eucalyptus Trees in the Date Farm-HC

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 6-Nice Looks at Migrating Swainson's Hawks-The Season Has Come To An End

April 6-Laura Webb assisted by Hal Cohen
April 7-No Count
April 8-No Count
April 9-Hal Cohen assisted by Herb Stone, Judy Davis, Tom Antel
April 10-Steve Bier
April 11-Steve Bier assisted by Hal Cohen
April 12-Hal Cohen
April 13-Laura Webb assisted by Hal Cohen and Steve Bier
April 14-Bob Theriault assisted by Steve Bier
April 15-Steve Bier

April 6-Swainson's Hawks-94
April 7-No Count
April 8-No Count
April 9-Swainson's Hawks-63
April 10-Swainson's Hawks-61; Turkey Vultures-21
April 11-Swainson's Hawks-34
April 12-Swainson's Hawks-219
April 13-Swainson's Hawks-45
April 14-Turkey Vultures-10
April 15-Swainson's Hawk-1

The season has come to a close! From April 6-10th we had lots of hawks on the ground near the new site. I drove .6 miles into Coyote Canyon and stopped at Coyote Creek, walked up a dune and watched as several small kettles of hawks formed and streamed above. This was a great spot to look NW up the canyon. I also watched as a few hawks flew in from Clark Valley near Butler Canyon. We need to work on landmarks of the mountains to the north. April 13 became a defining day as number 8,903 flew past us. The record number of hawks set in 2011 was broken. At the end of the day our tally for the season stands at 8,916. With an additional 1 hawk on the last day, we ended up with 8,917 Swainson's Hawks. Of interest, our Turkey Vulture number declined to it's lowest in 14 years at 148. Red-tailed Hawks all but disappeared as a migrant tallying only 1 for the season. Other raptors: Osprey-3; Red-shouldered Hawk-1; Prairie Falcon-1; White-tailed Kite-1; Zone-tailed Hawk-1.
A full summary will be available next year at Hawk Migration Association of North America.

Here are some of the you tubes taken during the season. Also included is the CBS-8 San Diego special and Huffington Post article. Feeding on Caterpillars. Last Kettle of the Season Coming to Roost CBS Huffington

Here are answers to questions that have been submitted:
1.       1. Why do you count the hawks? The short answer, to understand the status of hawks and other bird species. Counts yield information about the health of the population. Trends upward or downward often tell us if a population is rising or dwindling. Swainson's Hawks in northern California suffered greatly from pesticides in Argentina. By watching the population trends an alarm went off and action was taken.
2. When do the Swainson's Hawks migrate? Fall migration takes place from September through November. Spring migration is from February through May. 
3. Where do the hawks come from? Where are they going? Our hawks spend winter in Mexico, Colombia and points south to Argentina, southern Brazil and Uruguay.They breed in summer in most of the plains states including Canada and as far north as Alaska.
4. How far do they fly in a day? Anywhere from 80-150 miles
5. Where do they spend the next night? Our hawks probably spend the next night around 100 miles north and north east of Borrego Springs. 

Dark Morph Swainson's Hawk-James Morris

Light Intermediate Female-James Morris

SW-Jonathan Kwan
Subadult Light Morph Swainson's Hawk-Jonathan Kwan
Dark Morph SW on a wire-unusual-Martin Fletcher

Dark Morph-Jonathan Kwan

Adult Male Light Swainson's Haw-Judy Davis
Andy the Anna's Hummer-Our Mascot-At The Evening Site Every Day-Hal Cohen

Thanks to all of our leaders and assistants for a wonderful season. Also thanks to Jim Dice and Bob Theriault for assisting with data entry. Thanks to Gina Moran (Sr. Environmental Scientist-Anza-Borrego State Park) for coordinating meetings and our new site development. Thanks to Ashley Kvitek for her help updating our brochure. Many thanks to all of the photographers that shared wonderful photos.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

March 29-April 5, 2016-We Still Have Some Hawks Coming In-However Unpredictable

March 29-Steve Bier assisted by Wes Hetrick
March 30-Laura Webb assisted by Hal Cohen
March 31-Bob Theriault
April 1-Herb STone
April 2-Dan Mayka Jr. assisted by Hal Cohen
April 3-Hal Cohen
April 4-Herb Stone assisted by Tommy Antel
April 5-Hal Cohen assisted by Tommy Antel

March 29-51 Swainson's Hawks
March 30-14 Swainson's Hawks
March 31-24 Turkey Vultures
April 1-22 Swainson's Hawks
April 2-3 Swainson's Hawks
April 3-0
April 4-88 Swainson's Hawks; 1 Turkey Vulture
April 5-217 Swainson's Hawks

We discovered a new area for feeding north and east of the new watch site at the end of DiGiorgio Rd. For 3 days beginning April 3 we have found SW's on the ground and creosote bushes. Today April 5, several kettles formed around 9am. and over 200 SW's migrated. There were over 20 still on the ground at 11am.

Evening Watch:
This evening I went to the new site at the end of DiGiorgio Rd and found several hawks to the east feeding on something? Without disturbing the hawks we may not know what the food is. I counted around 20 on the ground and another 15 coming in from ? So anyone interested in seeing a lift-off, tomorrow at the new site 4.6 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on DiGiorgio Rd is the place.

Tomorrow wind should be calm to light so the hawks on the ground probably won't take off until 9a.m or later. The best place to view the hawks is at the end of DiGiorgio Rd. 4.6 miles north of Palm Canyon Dr. The raised mound is perfect for viewing the hawks. There is a portable washroom there as well.

Hal Cohen-SW

Ernie Cowan-Rufous Morph Swainson's Hawk

Iris Kirkpatrick-SW
James Morris-SW

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Very Windy and Few Hawks Migrating-Monday March 28, 2016

Saturday March 26-Hal Cohen assisted by Austin Stokes, Wes Hetrick and Rose Leong
Sunday March 27-Hal Cohen assisted by Austin Stokes, Wes Hetrick and Rose Leong
Monday March 28-Judy Davis assisted by Herb Stone, Wes Hetrick and Austin Stokes

Saturday March 26
     Swainson's Hawks-169
Sunday March 27
     Swainson's Hawks-9
Monday March 28
     Swainson's Hawks-18
     Turkey Vultures-5

As of today we have counted over 8,000 Swainson's Hawks that have migrated through Borrego Valley. This marks the second year since our inception, 2003,  that over 8,000 hawks have been tallied.
On March 27 we discovered hawks feeding along S22 at mile marker 30. They were again there this morning (March 28).We expected a lull and sure enough it has happened. Hawks were observed in several locations in the valley but not in great numbers. The wind on Monday has created havoc for both watchers and the hawks. We searched for hawks this evening (Monday) and found only one.

Below are some interesting shots taken of other raptor species seen in the valley recently. Also, check out the Swainson's Hawk with a snake at the evening site.

I was asked for a map of the locations we mention in the blog. We will work on it. Here are the sites mentioned:
A. Evening Site-About 1.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Rd is the "Date Farm" The farm now called Evans Ranch is fronted by palm trees. There are dates in the middle. It's the Eucalyptus Trees that attract the hawks for roosting.
B. The Old Day Count Site-About 2.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on DiGiorgio Rd is the "Old Day Count Site". It's a mound on the east side of the road. It's a few hundred yards south of Henderson Canyon Rd.
C. The New Day Count Site-About 4.6 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on DiGiorgio Rd is the "New Day Count Site". It's at the end of the paved rd. However we are spending more time at the old site.
D. Potato Fields-Located east of Borrego Valley Rd/south of Henderson Canyon Rd for a few miles to the east. Some of the fields are fallow and some under production. There is a diagonal road just off of Henderson Canyon Rd. and east of Borrego Valley Rd. that runs along the potato fields. It becomes impassable after a quarter of a mile. The fields are to the south.
E. De Anza Country Club-Hawks are sometimes found in the country club. However most will feed to the east along Borrego Springs Rd. From Christmas Circle (in downtown Borrego Springs) drive about 2.5 miles north on Borrego Springs Rd. This is around 1/2 mile south of Henderson Canyon Rd.
F. Ellis Farm (now called West Coast Trees) is located on Borrego Valley Rd just south of Henderson Canyon Rd. It borders the Potato Fields. Often SW's roost in the tamarisk trees at Ellis.

 With each new post we will have a few questions that are often asked by visitors. Here are some:
1. Why do you count the hawks?
2. When do the Swainson's Hawks migrate?
3. Where do the hawks come from? Where are they going?
4. How far do they fly in a day?
5. Where do they spend the next night?
Answers next blog

Swainson's Hawk With Shovel-nosed Snake-Pete Sole

Swainson's Hawk Eating Snake-Pete Sole

Zone-tailed Hawk with Swainson's Hawk-Darren Dowell

Ferruginous Hawk-Hal Cohen

Prairie Falcon-Wes Hetrick

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hawks Are in Again-March 24, 2016

Wes Hetrick assisted by Rose Leong and Hal Cohen

Swainson's Hawks-72
Turkey Vultures-9

Once again we had a count from the old site. Several small kettles formed near the Date Farm and to the east. We also had a visit from the Zone-tailed Hawk.

Evening Watch;
Around 200 hawks descended into the Date Farm and the potato fields. Most of the birds are east near the potato fields. They arrived later in the evening. The lull we expected did not materialize yet.

Wind should be light tomorrow so migration may start late-around 9a.m. Watch for kettles to form to the east and over the Date Farm. Best viewing probably from the old count site on DiGiorgio Rd south of Henderson Canyon Rd and possibly from Borrego Valley Rd.

Nice Kettle Forming
Swainson's Hawks on the Ground
Intermediate (rufous morph) Swainson's Hawk-Jim Morris

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

March 23, 2016-Nice lift-off from the De Anza area-113 Swainson's Hawks

Laura Webb assisted by Wes Hetrick, Pam Albers, Hal Cohen

Swainson's Hawks-112
Turkey Vultures-5

Several hawks were on the ground just east of the community of De Anza. Most probably spent a few days eating caterpillars. Folks got great looks as the hawks formed several small kettles before departing the valley.

Evening Watch:
This evening only 25 new hawks were observed coming into the valley. A few are in the vicinity of the Date Farm. Tomorrow we will check to see if some hawks are still feeding near De Anza.

We do not expect a big migration tomorrow. Often after several days of many hawks we have a lull period. Hopefully the numbers will increase in a few days. Light wind tomorrow morning means a late takeoff. Migrating hawks tomorrow will probably leave after 9a.m.

Swainson's Hawk Against the Full Moon-HC
Siting SW Hawk-3/23/16-HC

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Over 7,000 Swainson's Hawks In 15 Days! March 22-721 Sw's

Steve Bier assisted by Hal Cohen, Wes Hetrick, Rose Leong

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-721
Turkey Vultures-14

At 6:35a a huge kettle formed near the date farm. Over 600 Sw's streamed past the old watch site. Additional hawks continued streaming through for half an hour. Several hawks were located near De Anza on the east side as well as over the golf course. Feeding continues in the De Anza area. Check out he amazing shot of the Raven harassing a juvenile hawk. Photos below thanks to Iris Kirkpatrick and Judy Davis.

Evening Watch:
It appears that no hawks arrived this evening. Wind gusts to 40mph may have hampered entrance to the valley. Around 100 hawks remain in the valley and may continue feeding tomorrow. They were last observed going to roost in tamarisk trees near the intersection of Henderson Canyon Rd and Borrego Springs Rd. Drive west from DiGiorgio Rd. about .5 miles. If they are not here try driving south on Borrego Springs Rd.

Wind to 7mph in the morning will probably get the hawks up early. Hopefully they will remain in the valley feeding on caterpillars.

Raven After Swainson's Hawk-Iris Kirkpatrick
Light Morph Swainson's Hawk-Judy Davis