Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 31, 2012 A Wonderful Day for Hawks

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-421
Turkey Vultures-13

Discussion:
Calm wind with increasing breeze, clear and warm 60's-80. The Swainson's were lined up on Tamarisk Trees along Borrego Springs Rd and Pekoff Farm. The first lift-off of one SW from Borrego Springs Rd at 8:40A. By 9A hawks were flapping low across Borrego Springs Rd to kettle to the west. Over 300 Swainson's flew to a few large kettles. Several SW's lifted off from the Date Farm. Some SW's came out of Ellis. The hawks streamed through Coyote Canyon by 10A.

3/31/12 Swainson's on Borrego Springs Rd. 
This is the last addition from PORTS. We finally made it happen! 1700 students were able to learn about the Borrego Valley Hawkwatch and the conservation of Swainson's Hawks and other migratory species. Forty sessions were taught in March! Using a scope and binoculars encouraged students to get out and take a closer look. LuAnn will meet with some classes again this spring and will start by asking how many have done some additional birding, listening or maybe even listing. 


This final week 21 Classes came out to the Hawkwatch via the PORTS program. Olive Vista Middle School from Los Angeles and Windermere Ranch from Contra Costa County up north where some of the hawks are headed.Thanks for bringing your students to California State Parks to learn about conserving animal species through understand their habitats and natural history. LuAnn hopes to hear about the new birds your student's have discovered when she meets you later in the spring with more Science in California State Parks. 


Question:
When does the season end? We may have hawks move through into May. However, the watch officially closes down April 15. By the end of the first week of April the number of hawks falls sharply. 


Evening Watch:
Some crazy folks stayed at the evening watch site in 40 mph wind and sand blasting. At least a dozen Swainson's Hawks stayed aloft and landed at the Date Farm. While we were hiding from the wind, someone found 24 Swainson's hawks coming to roost in Tamarisks along Borrego Valley Road near Ellis Farm and Roadrunner Tree Farm. This may be only part of a larger group in that area. 


Prediction for Tomorrow:
Wind may get the hawks up very early. Some will kettle up from the Date Farm. Additionally a larger group will lift off from Ellis and Roadrunner Tree Farm. There might be more near the potato fields. The best viewing spots are Henderson Canyon Road and Borrego Valley Road and at the evening site. 










Friday, March 30, 2012

Maybe Tonight? Yes!!!-ALERT-MEGA KETTLE

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-23

Discussion:
Weather today was calm and warm-65-85 degrees with high clouds and light breeze. The first lift off was at 9:05A from the Date Farm. At 10:15A more SW's appeared from the southeast and more at 10:15A west of the watch site. The later arrivals probably roosted further from the day site.

Question:
Coming in to roost late
Is the season coming to a close? Well, the migration through our valley has slowed down. However, there is mounting evidence that Swainson's Hawks are moving through other areas. Another radioed hawk has crossed the border and moved northwest on the east side of the Salton Sea. At least 60 SW's were sighted at Joshua Tree National Park the other day. Another dozen were seen near Holtsville, CA. So the short answer is no, the hawks are moving but not through Borrego Springs. UPDATE-WE HAVE A WAVE of SWAINSON'S

Evening Watch:
At 6:15P the first kettle came in with around 28 Swainson's. Soon another small group came in. It appears that the 40 or so SW's have settled into Ellis Farm. At 6:45P a mass of Swainson's Hawks appeared to the west. They grew and began to kettle looking like a tornado. They finally touched down in the back of the Date Farm and probably on Tamarisks west of Di Giorgio Rd. Too many to count. Wild estimates of 350-600 Swainson's Hawks totally.

Prediction for Tomorrow: The predicted wind for tomorrow will start late hopefully. Lift-off at 8:15A-9:30A with best observation points on Di Giorgio Road north of The Springs RV Park. Also on Di Giorgio Road near Big Horn. Expect huge kettles.



Thursday, March 29, 2012

Hopefully the Big Push Will Develop Soon

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-12
Turkey Vultures-14

Discussion:
Weather today was sunny with stringy clouds and warming into the 80's and light wind. At 8:45A the first Swainson's was observed low over Ellis. It flapped its way toward Coyote Canyon. All of the SW's moved in small groups of 2 or 3. There was some aerial feeding over the potato fields to the east of Ellis. TV's lifted off from both the Date Farm and east of the Roadrunner Club. Very little kettling today.

Question:
Does this look like a kettle? TV's 3/29/12
What is a kettle? As the raptors begin to rise on warm air, they circle about creating the image of a kettle. Use your imagination.

Evening Watch:
Not much to report. Four TV's and 7 Swainson's Hawks dropped into the Date Farm.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
Warm calm weather predicted for tomorrow. It looks like we have a few Swainson's Hawks that are hanging around. Best place to view takeoff is at the evening site on Borrego Valley Road.






Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Still Waiting for the Big Day

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-42
Turkey Vultures--5

Discussion:
View of the mountains at 7:30P Today
Weather was calm, warm with only a light breeze. Just after 9A a Swainson's Hawk took off and headed into Coyote Canyon followed by 13 SW's from The Springs RV Park. Turkey Vultures kettled up at 9:30A and headed west then northwest out of the valley. The wind picked up after 10A and more SW's migrated possibly from Ellis Farm. At 11A a late arrival of 23 Swainson's were spotted along Coyote Mountain. We have been getting late arrivals in this direction for a few days now. This indicates a roost site near Ocotillo Wells.

Question:
Why do you watch for incoming hawks after the sun goes down. Our photo today is the sky at 7:30P. The hawks would have no problem negotiating the sky in this light. Almost every evening we have very late incoming hawks.

Evening Watch:
Around 25 Swainson's and 24 TV's came in to roost at the Date Farm this evening. We had a great sky and were very optimistic about a big drop in. March 28, last year we had over 1,800 Swainson's.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
Unless we have a surprise visit of hawks from roost sites further south or east, we can expect around 30 Swainson's Hawks and 24 TV's to take off between 8 and 9A. The hawks will probably take off from the Date Farm. The best place to view the lift off is the evening site on Borrego Valley Road.



Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nice Day With Surprises

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-281
Turkey Vultures-11

Discussion:
Clear skies with a light breeze throughout the morning. We were surprised by the number of Swainson's Hawks roosting near the day count site. Sixty plus birds perched on the ground at sunrise in the fields west of the day count site. At 8:35A 25 SW's kettled up above the cars before streaming north. Smaller groups of 4 to 5 hawks took off from Ellis Farms and the potato fields. Just after 10A a kettle of 25 SW's was observed in the gap between San Ysidro and Indian Head. Several other SW's kettles came in from the east swelling this new group to 165.  

March 23, 2012-Route of a Swainson's Hawk from the border.
Recently 2 of the radioed birds mentioned in previous posts, crossed the border with Mexico (March 23rd). The map pictured here provides the route of one of the hawks. It crossed the border 2 miles east of Mexicali. It stayed over for several hours in the agriculture fields about 5 miles east of Calexico. In the afternoon it continued northwest apparently not stopping as it passed 4 miles east of El Centro, then 5 miles west of Brawley, 5 miles west of the southern tip of the Salton Sea, 13 miles east of Borrego Springs, 3 miles east of Anza and then over Hemet to finally roost near Pasadena. Hopefully I am correct in calculating the distance as over 175 miles.
This is quite interesting and impressive. Did the hawk move through Clark Valley? Or through Borrego Valley? Thirteen miles east would put the bird near Truckhaven. Get those maps out and comment.

Question:
Where near Pasadena do the hawks roost? The second hawk that passed through the border on March 23 also roosted near Pasadena. I don't have the answer. Perhaps someone has observed them near Pasadena.

Evening Watch:
We were disappointed by the low number of raptors this evening. Perhaps more surprises are awaiting us. Only 13 Swainson's and 12 TV's were observed. The SW's are roosting in the Date Farm.

Predictions for Tomorrow:
Maybe there are some late arrivals. With continued mild conditions the raptors will probably ring up around 8:30A tomorrow from the Date Farm. It is always possible that many Swainson's Hawks have roosted an hour from Borrego Valley. If so we will again have late arrivals (around 10A).                                      







Monday, March 26, 2012

In Between Waves

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-6
Turkey Vultures-1

Discussion:
Cool morning with scattered clouds and a slight breeze. At 8:50A the Swainson's Hawks lifted off from the Roadrunner Club. The TV took off in the same direction.

Question:
Mating flying ants
What is aerial feeding? Often the Swainson's Hawks fly about and pounce on ants or other insects in the air. After a rain and a warming trend, winged females and winged males are produced. The ants will fly fairly high and copulate in the air. Females will drop to the ground and begin a new colony. The males die shortly after mating. Three days ago we had over 200 feeding Swainson's Hawks. 

Evening Watch:
Swainson's Hawk pouncing on flying ants
Only 28-30 Swainson's Hawks were observed coming to roost near the day site on Di Giorgio Rd. Twelve Turkey Vultures were seen earlier, roost site unknown.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
The wind should be light tomorrow so take off from the day site should take place around 8:30A


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Remarkable Views of Over 500 Swainson's Today

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-576
Turkey Vutures-6

Discussion:
Swainson's Hawks 6:45A today on the ground


Fearing an early departure I ventured out at 6:20A. The wind was up and at 6:30A a huge gathering of hawks lifted up from the Date Farm. They did not rise high and descended into the trees and adjacent field. The first real lift off occurred at 8A from the Date Farm and Ellis Farm. Several kettles began to form and the hawks moved west. Many crossed Di Giorgio Road then returned to the east to join other kettles. Finally hawks began to stream to the west in earnest. Some at tree level The kettling and streaming lasted for an hour. From 9A-10A small kettles formed, some low, some very high. A few individuals remained in the area, aerial feeding.

Question:
How far will the hawks fly today? Well, we don't know. The average daily flight is somewhere around 80 miles or so. The hawks may fly further if conditions are right. Two hundred miles in a day is possible. We have very little information from points north after the hawks leave Borrego Springs.

Evening Watch:
Only a few left over hawks were observed this evening. The rainy conditions may have slowed the migration. Of course we may have surprises tomorrow.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
We do not expect much of a migration tomorrow. However, we have been fooled in the past. Tomorrow evening, after the storm, may be productive. The best migration days are coming soon.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ALERT-Over 300 Swainson's in Tonight

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-295
Turkey Vultures-63

Discussion:
At 8:40A kettles of Swainson's Hawks began to develop from the Date Farm. They continued to stream off the Eucalyptus Trees for 30 minutes. Kettles formed and streaming continued as the hawks moved north closer to the day site. They began to arial feed on ants. They began to drift east over the potato fields. Over 200 SW's moved about pouncing on flying ants. By 10A they began to stream out through Coyote Canyon. Several Turkey Vultures followed them out.

Swainson's showing a bow stature streaming to the roost 3/24/12

Question:
Why don't you count in the evening? We do count but it is difficult to get an accurate count as the hawks fly high and spread out. This evening is a good example. At least 75 SW's settled into the Ellis Farm. The remainder flew high and landed in the Date Farm. The day site is situated in an area that allows us to watch all directions as the hawks migrate.

Evening Watch:
Another spectacular evening. At 6:20P hundreds of Swainson's Hawks were observed far to the north. They kettled then streamed back and forth. Finally at 6:50P a huge stream moved over the night watch site. The SW's descended into the back of the Date Farm. Estimates range from 300 to 500 or more Swainson's and a handful of TV's

Prediction for Tomorrow:
Unfortunately we may experience early AM wind. This will spur the Swainson's to begin flying just after sunup at 6:45A or so. If lucky the wind will wait until later. Aerial feeding may take place. If so, the hawks will remain in the area a little longer. Best places to view the hawks are at the night site on Borrego Valley Road, or Di Giorgio Road north of The Springs RV Park or the day count site on Di Giorgio.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Best Day of the Year and the Wave Continues-ALERT

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-618
Turkey Vultures-10

Discussion:
A dark morph among some light morphs 3/23/12
Wispy high clouds dominated the sky today. Temperature was warm, 60-s to low 70's. Several watchers came out for the show. We thought that fresh breezes would stimulate the hawks early. The watch began at 6:30A. The flight began at 8:20A, a long wait. Swainson's Hawks roosted on trees leading into the Fun Farm and the date farm as well as isolated trees. At least 60 SW's moved from perches to the ground early. Only a few appeared to be feeding, probably on flying ants. The first liftoff brought the hawks close to the day site. By 9:10A most of the hawks were airborne. Kettles formed and dissipated as the hawks meandered back and forth before streaming toward Coyote Canyon. The day site counted 435 Swainson's. Additionally, 126 SW's were counted flying close to Coyote Mountain. These hawks flew from an outlying area to the east. At 10A a large kettle of Swainson's Hawks was sighted very high toward Coyote Mountain. Additional hawks joined the kettle. At least 50 and probably more SW's were moving close to the mountain toward Coyote Canyon.

Question:
I keep hearing about morphs? What is a morph? A morph is a genetic variation, like blond, brunette, redhead. Most of the Swainson's Hawks we see are light morphs, some are very dark and some rufous or intermediate. Strangely the literature indicates that only 10-15% of California Swainson's are light in summer. See the variation between light and dark in the photo above. Swainson's Hawks do not have subspecies and only Red-tailed Hawks have more color variety.



Evening Watch:
Two hundred plus Swainson's Hawks and 50 Turkey Vultures dropped in this evening. The SW's are roosting across the road from the evening watch site on Borrego Valley Rd. The whereabouts of the TV's is unknown.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
The wind should be light so expect lift off between 8 and 9A. The best place to watch the kettles form are at the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd,  or on Di Giorgio north of the Springs RV Park and at the day site on Di Giorgio Rd.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ALERT-The Next Wave in Borrego!-Hundreds of Swainson's Here!!

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-34
Turkey Vultures-1

Discussion:
Weather was clear and calm to start, with a slight southeast breeze developing later. Temperature 55-80 degrees. Lift off of 25 SW's from the Date Farm at 9:05A. The hawks flapped their way out of the valley through Coyote Canyon. The second group took off at 9:30A and streamed out of the valley. One lone TV came out of the Roadrunner Club.
Some of the Hawkwatch Leaders
This week Emerson Middle School and Griffith Middle School from Los Angeles visited the Hawkwatch.  Thanks for bringing your students to share this conservation story. All of the classes generated amazing hypotheses as to why these hawks' populations have decreased over time.  We were also impressed with the list of raptors and other California bird species that sixth grade students were able to generate.  We challenge you all to get out and listen as all of the spring bird songs begin and look to the sky!



Evening Watch:
At least 300 and perhaps 500 Swainson's have descended into trees lining the road to the Fun Farm on Di Giorgio Rd. A dozen or more TV's have shown up as well.


Prediction for Tomorrow:
If the wind does not develop during the night expect a huge kettle or kettles to form between 8A and 9:30A tomorrow. Best place to view will be just north of The Springs RV Park on Di Giorgio Rd. If the winds pick up early the hawks will depart just after sunup.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fewer Swainson's Than Expected Today

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-79
Turkey Vultures-18


Discussion:
Swainson's Hawk-3/19/12-Courtesy of Pam Albers
Weather today was sunny with calm wind. Temperature ranged from 60-70 degrees. At 9A the Swainson's kettled up from the driveway of the Fun Farm. At 9:30A Turkey Vultures begin to rise from Roadrunner Club in small groups. Around noon time a late arrival of 45 Swainson's Hawks was spotted near Indian Head Peak. The photo at the right was taken through a scope using a point and shoot camera. 


Question:
I didn't answer the question asked yesterday. Why is there a discrepancy between the number of hawks counted coming into roost in the evening and leaving the following day. Today was an exception. We counted more hawks last night than what we observed leaving today. Perhaps some of the hawks re-located to other roost sites that were not observed from the count site. In actuality most of the time we see fewer in the evening and more in the morning exiting the valley. We believe that hawks continue to arrive after dark. Our perception of darkness and the hawks view are different. Hawks can see far later into the evening hours than we can. 


Evening Watch:
This evening 25 Swainson's Hawks came into the Date Farm to the northwest side. A few TV's also flew into the area. We now have around 6 resident TV's.


Prediction for Tomorrow:
Light winds indicate a late take off, probably around 9A. Again, watching from Di Giorgio Rd near the entrance to the Fun Farm is best. 







Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stable Weather and Hawks Trickle In

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-79
Turkey Vultures-15


Discussion:
Light Morph Swainson's Hawk
Skies were clear and blue for a few hours before a haze from the east moved in. Wind was cam to a light breeze. At 9:15A 11 Swainson's lifted off from Ellis Farms kettled up and streamed into Coyote Canyon. Several distant kettles of 10-20 birds were seen at the back of Ellis, probably at the potato fields. Several nice kettles wee observed between Ant Hill and Inspiration before all streamed into Coyote Canyon. At 10:30A 11 TV's were seen circling above roadrunner. One lone dark morph SW was spotted near De Anza. 


Question:
Why are the number of hawks arriving in the evening always lower than the number of hawks leaving the next day? See Prediction below.


Evening Watch:
At 6:15P TV's and some Swainson's were spotted to the south near Roadrunner Club. The SW's streamed to the Date Farm and began to kettle up. Other SW's joined the mix from the north. In all, 46 Swainson's were counted going to roost in the back of the date farm. 


Prediction for Tomorrow:

The number of hawks observed arriving at roosts is almost always lower than the number leaving the following day. We can predict anywhere from 46-100 Swainson's leaving tomorrow. The sky will be clear and the wind calm. Departure will be around 9A. A good place to view the hawks will be on Di Giorgio Rd. north of the Springs RV park. 












  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Surprise Numbers of Swainson's Today Migrating


Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-584
Turkey Vultures-24

Discussion:
The weather this morning included a mostly cloudy sky, temperatures in the 40's with a breeze from the north. The Swainson's Hawks that were observed yesterday evening spread out to several roost locations. Liftoff began at 7:25A from the Roadrunner Club and the Fun Farm off of Di Giorgio. The hawks streamed to the northwest in several kettles. Swainson's Hawks began to appear as a very high stream from the southeast. They kettled above Di Giogio Rd before departing to the northwest. These birds probably roosted at Bowen Ranch and La Casa Del Zorro. We counted 287 SW's in the early liftoff. We waited on Di Giorgio Rd as a large number of Swainson's were perched in Tamarisks in rows radiating west from Di Giorgio Rd. At 9:15A the SW's left the trees and formed many kettles. During a 45 minute period, kettles formed and streamed northwest. Small kettles began to form to the south with mixed SW's and TV's. The totals in the late departure included 297 Swainson's and 24 TV's.

Question:
Perched Swainson's Today at Sunup
What happened to the hawks with transmitters on them?


1.  Information from a week ago. One Swainson's Hawk entered California on March 7 about 12 miles west of Calexico, continued northwest crossing the west portion of Anzo-Borrego SP and then up to Julian and Valley Center.   
2.  The second entered on March 12 about 6 miles east of Calexico, continued to El Centro and travelled northwest from El Centro to Ranchita. This bird was just south of the border at 0900 hrs on March 12th. The next reading was from Ranchita late evening of the 12th. The following day the bird was north of LA near Santa Clarita. This bird may have passed through Borrego Springs up Hell Hole Canyon or Montezuma Valley Road. This bird moved very fast and never spent the night in Borrego Valley. This raises questions as to when it may have passed through our valley. That is, if indeed it did pass through Borrego Valley  

So both of these birds used the same general trajectory, one further east than the other. It does look like they flew through a portion of the Anza- Borrego SP. 

As of March 15th, two hawks are still in South America, one in Central America, and 4 in Mexico. The birds in Mexico may have moved past our region already. More information later.

Evening Watch:
15 Swainson's flew into the area at 6:35P. They apparently landed at Ellis Farm. 11 TV's were observed in the vicinity of the date farm earlier.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
First kettle of the day-3/19/12
Calm wind tomorrow so liftoff around 8:30-9A. The day count site on Di Giorgio Rd might be the best place to be.

 





  



Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snowy Day-No Migration-Monday ALERT

Migration Today:
Borrego Springs? or Yellowstone 3/18/12
0

Discussion:
40's today and snow down to 2500'. One lone Swainson's Hawk was observed at the day site. 

Question:
What will the weather do for migration in the coming days? By Tuesday we should have good migration as the front has stalled migration from Mexico. At this point only 2 of the 11 radioed Swainson's have crossed the border. Details to follow.

Evening Watch:
We were surprised this evening as over 200 Swainson's appeared over Roadrunner Club. They settled into Eucalyptus trees only to be blown away. They relocated to trees north of the Springs RV park. Many are still at the Roadrunner Club. Additionally at least 50 have been located at La Casa Del Zorro to the south.
Coming into roost at Roadrunner Club-3/18/12

Prediction for Tomorrow:
The windy conditions will remain into the morning hours. The 200 plus Swainson's Hawks and Turkey Vultures (around 25-35), will probably depart the valley at first light. Folks planning to venture into town should check the roads. Approaching from the mountains may require chains. Temperature in Borrego tomorrow will be in the 50's early, rising into the 60's. Di Giorgio Road north of the Springs RV Park may be the place to be.


Roosting in Eucalyptus Tree RR Club-3/18/12





Saturday, March 17, 2012

Raining This Evening

Migration Today:
0

Discussion:
Looking west at Indian Head Peak this evening

Although the rain didn't begin until this afternoon, we had no migration today. Presently it is windy, cloudy and rainy. By Tuesday or Wednesday of this coming week, we should see a nice migration.

Question:
How are the statistics this year compared to the past 9 years? As of today we have had 1,220 Swainson's Hawks and 579 Turkey Vultures. This is the second best year at this time for Swainson's numbers. Last year we had 1,696 SW's by March 17. More than 75% of the Swainson's counted in a season, show up between March 17 and the end of the season. So, most of the Swainson's Hawks are on the way.

Evening Watch:
No watch this evening. The photo above was taken at 6P looking west. Tomorrow morning the peaks behind Indian Head will be white with snow.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
Rain should continue through the night (locals love it). Conditions will improve and perhaps tomorrow evening we will have incoming raptors.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Very Windy Tonight/Rain Beginning Tomorrow

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-2
Turkey Vultures-27


Discussion:
The weather was warm, calm with wind picking up to 5 mph from the SE. The TV's roosted at the Date Farm and then moved to the Roadrunner. First liftoff was at 9:10A. Most of the TV's moved west then northwest through Coyote Canyon. The 2 Swainson's Hawks left the valley first.


Swainson's Hawk and Raven Photo courtesy of  Susie Sjnishio
Question:
What is the size difference between the Swainson's Hawks and Ravens? Take a look at the photo and you be the judge.


Evening Watch:
A blustery evening with brisk wind from the west. Three Swainson's Hawks and 11 TV's were spotted. The TV's remained in the sky most of the evening. Two of the Swainson's came into the Date Farm. The third SW put down at Ellis Farm.


Prediction for Tomorrow:


RAIN and WIND-Probably no migration





Thursday, March 15, 2012

Storm Approaching From the North

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-32
Turkey Vultures-16

Discussion:
Weather was mostly clear, calm to start, 3 mph WNW to end 58-70 degrees. Both the SW's and TV's roosted at both the date farm and the Roadrunner Club. Liftoff at 9:10A for both species at the Roadrunner. At 9:15A another liftoff from the date farm. The raptors moved low and slow to the west and finally out Coyote Canyon. The TV's pictured here were observed on Palm Canyon Drive near the Roadrunner Club.

Beginning Saturday we will have a wind and rain event. The much needed rain will probably begin Saturday afternoon. The wind will begin increasing Friday evening. This may slow migration as the the storm moves quickly to the south. The next wave of Swainson's Hawks will probably begin Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. 

Heh! Move over so I can spread my wings!
Question:
What is the protected status of the Swainson's Hawk in California. The Swainson's Hawk is listed as State-threatened under the California Endangered Species Act of 1983. "It is considered an uncommon breeding resident and migrant in Northern California, and occurs primarily in the Central Valley and on the Northeastern Plateau". Once abundant throughout Northern California, the numbers have declined considerably. Disturbance of breeding and foraging habitat are the primary cause.

Evening Watch:
Only 22 Turkey Vultures and 1 Swainson's came into the valley this evening. The location of the roost is unknown.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
The wind is predicted to increase through the morning hours. Migration of the TV's and lone SW may be early. The Circle of Art Festival has been cancelled this weekend and will be next weekend instead.







Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nice Close Views of Swainson's Today


Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-103
Turkey Vultures-46


Discussion:
Sunny, calm wind and upper 60's-low 70's. Just after 9A kettles of 35 TV's and 71 Swainson's came out of the Roadrunner Club. TV's came up from Pekoff Farm as well. Just after 10A TV's and Swainson's were spotted that brought the totals up.


Nice sky today for a Swainson's Hawk kettle. Find the TV.
This week Calavera Hills Middle School in Carlsbad, Ishi Hills Middle School in Oroville and Southgate Middle School in Los Angeles joined the Hawkwatch.  Thanks for bringing your students to share this conservation story.  Don Callejon Middle School from the Southern San Francisco Bay area sent some awesome letters from last week's visit.    

Question: From Mrs. Browns students:
"What is the average lifespan of a Swainson's Hawk?" The life span of a Swainson's Hawk is 7-8 years on average. The longest wild Swainson's record is 24 years. Swainson's Hawks die from collision's with cars, electrocution, shooting, hailstorms and predators (Great Horned Owls, Golden Eagles, Coyotes and Bobcats). The first year of a Swainson's Hawk life is the most dangerous. About 50% of juvenile Swainson's don't make it to a second year. 


Evening Watch:
A slow evening with a dozen TV's coming in plus around 12-15 Swainson's. Most of the raptors settled into the date farm. Our first big wave of Swainson's Hawks is probably over. After the predicted storm this weekend we should have another wave. 


Prediction for Tomorrow:
Once again we will have sunny and warm weather tomorrow. The few Swainson's and TV's will kettle up around 9A unless the predicted winds continue into the morning hours. 

[edit]


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Another Great Migration Today-ALERT for Tomorrow

Migration:
Swainson's Hawks-235
Turkey Vultures-34
Red-tailed Hawks-3

Discussion:
Several Swainson's Hawks in a Eucalyptus Tree 3/13/12
Lift-off from the date farm and near The Springs RV Park at 9:15A. The weather was sunny and 70 by 10A with a very light breeze. Kettles up to 75 hawks came very close to the watch site. A kettle of 92 SW's came late (11A), streaming to the northwest.

Question:
How far do the hawks fly in a day? The distance covered in a day will depend on weather conditions. SW's migrate from 50-200 miles in a day. The average may be around 80-100 miles. Today, I spent some time in Coyote Canyon at another viewing site. The hawks traveled the 5 miles from the day site in about 1/2 hour. That's 10mph. If the hawks are flying at this speed they will travel around 7 or 8 hours and 70-80 miles today.

Evening Watch:
Once again we observed several Swainson's Hawks and Turkey Vultures drop into roosts. Somewhere between 150 and 200 Swainson's and at least 100 Turkey Vultures played in the wind this evening. From 5:45P-7P Swainson's meandered about until dropping into the date farm and a tree at a private home near The Springs RV Park.

Prediction for Tomorrow
Strong wind will continue until early tomorrow morning. If the wind should die down by sunup, the Swainson's and TV's will remain in roosts until 8:30-9:30A. Lift-off from the date farm should be very impressive. Observation from the evening site, Di Giorgio Rd or the count site will be good. If it continues to be windy, all the raptors will leave the roost by 7:30A.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Biggest Day of the Year-ALERT for Tomorrow

Migration Today:

Swainson's Hawks-329 
Turkey Vultures-35   
Cooper's Hawk-1     

Discussion:
Streaming from Kettle to Kettle
A warm clear day with a slight breeze from the southwest. Lift-off from the date farm at 9:15A. Swainson's Hawks formed at least 3 kettles and began streaming back and forth between the kettles. A great day to observe kettles forming, followed by streaming and more kettles forming.

Question:
Part of a large kettle 3/12/12
Where do the hawks go after leaving Borrego Valley? Most of our hawks move through Coyote Canyon and exit near Anza. We have little information as to the whereabouts of the SW's after Anza. Tonight's destination is unknown. Unfortunately we get few reports of the Swainson's Hawks when they leave here. Perhaps the hawks with radio transmitters will shed some light on the next destination.


Evening Watch:
Another exciting evening as over 100 Swainson's Hawks meandered about before settling in a few different locations. Most of the hawks are in the date farm. At least 32 are located in a large Eucalyptus Tree north of The Springs RV park. The rest may be at De Anza or Pekoff Farm. Twenty-four Turkey Vultures were last seen moving south.

Prediction for Tomorrow:
Hopefully the wind predicted for tonight will calm down by sunup. If so the hawks will begin to kettle between 9A and 9:45A. Expect the number to be over 100 and possibly much higher as more birds may come in late. Best places to view the hawks are Di Giorgio Rd around Big Horn or at the evening site on Borrego Valley. The official day site is also good as the leader and volunteers can help you locate hawks.




 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

ALERT-OVER 200 SWAINSON'S TONIGHT

Migration Today:
Swainson's Hawks-278
Turkey Vultures-6

Discussion:
Mostly cloudy conditions early with calm wind. Over 75 Swainson's Hawks were visible in the date farm. As the morning progressed a breeze from the southeast at 8:40AM standard time finally got the Swainson's up from the date farm.  (9:40A-Daylight Savings Time). Kettles of SW's continued to move to the west and then northwest through Coyote Canyon. Great views today as the hawks remained very low. By the end of the first hour 224 SW's were counted. Small kettles continued for the next hour bringing the total to 278. Only 6 TV's were observed leaving the valley.

Question:
Streaming Swainson's Hawks 3/10/12
How do you count the swirling hawks? We wait until the hawks begin to stream. Pictured to the right is a stream of hawks searching for a thermal. The birds are spread out and flying in the same direction. The 18 hawks pictured here were part of a group of over 200. The stream continued for a few minutes. Using a counting clicker we count each bird after it passes a fixed point. When the hawks are funneling about in the rising heat bubble, it is difficult to count. They will twirl in two circular directions.

Evening Watch:
I just returned from the evening watch 7:10P. Hawks were still dropping into the date farm. Watchers from yesterday counted many more than the previous evening. Over 200 and possibly 300 Swainson's are now roosting at the date farm. Twenty-four TV's are in the area as well.

Prediction:
The windy conditions now should diminish by early morning. Expect 250-300 Swainsons's Hawks to migrate tomorrow from the date farm. Lift-off should be between 8:45A and 9:45A. Earlier if the wind persists. A good location to view the lift-off is at the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd. Also, from the junction of Big Horn and Di Giorgio Rd. The day site on Di Giorgio also provides a view.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

ALERT-Around 200 Swainson's Are In

Migration Today:
Part of the Large Kettle of SW's 3/10/12
Swainson's Hawks-13
Turkey Vultures-102

Discussion:
Warm, clear and calm wind today, Turkey Vultures began to kettle up at 8:30A. At least 3 kettles formed above the date farm. Swainson's Hawks joined them and all began to stream northwest over the watch site. 

We have information concerning the Swainson's Hawks with radio transmitter's attached. As of March 9th only one bird has crossed the US border from Mexico. Three are still in South America, 2 are in Central America and 3 in Mexico. The lone bird that crossed the border on March 7th came in 10 miles west of Mexicali and continued northwest. It flew 2 miles west of Santa Ysabel and on March 8 it was 2 miles east of Valley Center near Escondido. by March 9th it was in Kern County. This bird was quite a bit west of Borrego Springs. Most of the birds are moving northward but don't seem to be in a great rush to get back on the breeding grounds. When they decide to move, they move fast.

A reminder concerning the time change tomorrow. Our raptors fly on standard time. So birds leaving the roost tomorrow at 8:45A will be leaving tomorrow at 9:45A. 


Evening Watch:
Joe Hopkins had a group out this evening from the park. An introduction to the hawkwatch. Little did they know what was in store for them. At 4:45P we looked up to see a huge kettle of Swainson's Hawks above the date farm. For over an hour the birds meandered about and finally landed in the west side of the date farm. Photo's can't capture the beauty of the flight. Counts exceeding 200 were made. 


Coming in to Roost/Date Farm 3/10/12
Prediction for tomorrow:


The winds should pick up in the morning. The birds will probably be up early. Between 185-250 Swainson's Hawks and around 20 TV's will take off between 7:30-8:30A new time (unless the wind stays light). If we are lucky and wind is light, the hawks will depart around 9A.