Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The End of the Season-April 4-10, 2017

April 4-Hal/Judy
April 5-Laura
April 6-Hal
April 7-Judy/Herb
April 8-Laura
April 9-Herb/Judy
April 10-Herb/Judy

April 4-5 SW's; 3 TV's
April 5-1 SW's; 1 TV
April 6-0
April 7-1 SW
April 8-1 TV; 1 Unidentified Raptor
April 9-0
April 10- 4 SW's; 1 TV

We decided to end the season early as we did not have enough leaders to cover the remaining days. Next season we hope to provide a stipend for an experienced hawk counter. We are dedicating this season to Steve Bier. For the past 7 years, Ranger Steve was an essential part of the hawkwatch. His knowledge of Borrego Valleys vast assemblage of plants and animals provided school children through adults with an endless stream of awareness. His quick wit, remarkable eyes, photo skills and knowledge of natural history were endless.

The final totals for the season:
Turkey Vultures-96-The lowest number in 15 years, well below the average
Cooper's Hawks-2
Red-shouldered Hawks-3
Swainson's Hawks-11,690-A record, overshadowing 2016's record season (8,917)
Ferruginous Hawks-1
Peregrine Falcon-1
Unknown Raptor-1
Total Raptors Counted: 11,795
Here are some photos of Swainson's Hawks and a charged up TV

Mac Stone

Hal Cohen-oh oh! Hot Feet Coming Soon
Daniel Garcia
Daniel Garcia
Larry Master
Larry Master

Monday, April 3, 2017

April 3, 2017 More Hawks in Town


Swainson's Hawks-12

Hawks were high after takeoff and difficult to follow.

Evening Watch:
At least 45 Swainson's Hawks flew in this evening. They remained in flight until 7:20pm. The flight took the hawks very far west before returning to the Date Farm. A few hundred ravens chased the hawks relentlessly.

Tomorrow (Tuesday April 4) wind should be light so lift-off around 8-9:30am. Best viewing probably from the evening watch on Borrego Valley Rd.
Juvenile Light Morph SW-Larry Master, www.masterimages.org

Adult Make Light Intermediate SW

Sunday, April 2, 2017

March 30-April 2-Slow Migration But Still Some Hawks in Town

March 30-Hal
March 31-Hal
April 1-Laura
April 20-Herb and Judy

March 30-0
March 31-1 Swainson's Hawk
April 1-3 Swainson's Hawks
April 2-100 Swainson's Hawks

On Sunday April 2 several hawks came up from the east and at least 10 from the date farm. All in all it was a good day for viewers.

On a sad note, one of our leaders died a few days ago. Ranger Steve Bier will always be remembered as the guy with the eyes. Steve had the ability to spot hawks without binocs when everyone scanned to find them with scopes and binocs. He will always be remembered for his knowledge of just about everything that moved in nature as well as flowers. This season is dedicated to Steve. We miss you.

Evening Watch:
This evening around 35 hawks were counted coming to the date farm. Hawks arriving now through the end of the season are probably coming from Argentina.

The fact that hawks are coming to the date farm, a return to the usual pattern, indicates that caterpillars are no longer in abundance. Tomorrow if the predicted wind arrives 12-15mph, the hawks will get up and leave between 7-9am.

A Swainson's with some caterpillars in the crop-Larry Master, www.masterimages.org.
Typical wing fold of a SW for a glide-Larry Master, www.masterimages.org.
Adult Light Morph SWLarry Master, www.masterimages.org.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

March 28-29-Is Migration Slowing Down?

March 28-Hal
March 29-Laura

March 28-0
March 29-160 Swainson's Hawks; 6 Turkey Vultures

It appears that migration is slowing down. The evening of March 28th did see a group of SW's descend into the valley. There are still caterpillars present in the valley. This may attract more hawks. It's hard to imagine more hawks after the record breaking numbers that we are experiencing. Today March 29th was fun with several small kettles visible to the onlookers.

We keep getting questions about the caterpillars and also the distance that our hawks fly.
1. What is the cycle of life for the White-lined Sphinx Moth
2. Why are the moths called sphinx moths.
3. Where are the hawks coming from and where do they go.

Today we'll work on question number one. See the life cycle below. When the caterpillars burrow into the sand, they pupate into a form that remains underground for 8-15 days before changing into a moth. After spending nights feeding and pollinating wildflowers, they lay eggs on the underside of the flowers. They hatch into very small caterpillars that begin to eat 24 hours a day on the flowers. After growing 3-4 inches in length they begin the cycle again.

Evening Watch: Wednesday March 29:
No hawks encountered but some may come in late.

We'll find out tomorrow.

Pupae and Adult
White-lined Sphinx Moth Eggs
Different color forms-White-lined Sphinx Moth

Monday, March 27, 2017

March 26-27, 2017 Finally Some Great Hawk Views

March 26-Laura assisted by Hal
March 27-Herb/Judy assisted by Hal

March 26-748 Swainson's Hawks
March 27-162 Swainson's Hawks; 6 Turkey Vultures

On Sunday March 26 we had a great migration directly over the alternate watch site. Finally photographers had opportunities to take some great shots. Kettles formed above the watch site and then streamed off. On Monday March 27th the morning developed with a strong NW wind. Hawks flew just above the ground in an attempt to migrate west. The evening site had great views of the hawks. Check out the youtube from Sunday March 26 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuRtvDwijO0

Evening Watch:
Monday March 27, very windy and no apparent hawks coming to roost

? and won't know until tomorrow.

Swainson's Hawk-Adult Male LIght Morph-David Clark
SW Hawk-Adult Male Light Morph-David Clark

Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 23-25, 2017 Continued Incredible Migration Numbers

March 23-Rose/Pam
March 24-Pam/Rose
March 25-Hal

March 23-192 Swainson's Hawks
March 24-174 Swainson's Hawks
March 25-1,248 Swainson's Hawks

The numbers tend to grow and then diminish and grow again. Today March 25 the hawks took off at 7am and migration was over by 8am. It was very windy. One kettle was the largest I have ever experienced in Borrego Springs (I estimate over 1,000 hawks). The stream was so large I couldn't keep up with the count. Our total count for the season now stands at 10,503 Swainson's Hawks. The previous high season was 2016-8,917. We never thought we would crack the 10,000 hawk barrier.

Evening Watch:
This evening initially we had around 150 SW's. At 6pm an additional group of 350 came into view. We now probably have over 500 in town. They are still in the same staging area to the east of Borrego Valley Rd. Photography from a distance does not work. Hopefully the hawks will be more cooperative tomorrow

Hopefully the wind will be down by sunup. If not the hawks will migrate very early (7am). Let's hope we will see hawks move after 8am. Best to visit the counter on Di Giorgio Rd to find out the best vantage point to view the hawks. This site is located a little south of Henderson Canyon rd. It is the alternate watch site. It's a tough year for photo's.

High Stream-HC Not Today

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

March 20-22, 2017-Continued Great Hawk Counts

March 20-Herb/Judy
March 21-Steve
March 22-Laura

March 20-711 Swainson's Hawks
March 21-737 SW's
March 22-45 SW's

On March 20 and 22 the hawks moved across Henderson Canyon and along Coyote Mtn. They had roosted near the potato fields in Tamarisks and Creosotes. Most crossed Henderson at the bend in the road located to the east. We hope to exceed our best year count tomorrow March 23.

Below is a map of SW's migration, wintering and breeding grounds. We probably are now seeing the arrival of hawks from Mexico and Central America. As the season progresses hawks will come from Columbia and finally Argentina.

Evening Watch: Wednesday March 22:
This evening around 200 hawks are in town. At least 135 may have stayed over from yesterday. Additionally around 75 came in late (6:15pm)

Wind will be up with a slight break early. Perhaps the hawks will move during the break. It is too hard to predict their movement. Perhaps it will be best to go to the alternative watch site on Di Giorgio Rd about 200 yards south of Henderson Canyon Rd. You can then be instructed as to where to go. It is possible that hawks could take off early in the wind. Today however it was windy and they didn't take off until 10am.
Map of Wintering, Migration and Breeding

Nice panoramas of our count area-Pam Albers

Hal receiving our mascot award from Larry Hendrickson-A Caterpillar

A 3 inch Caterpillar on a Popcorn Flower-HC

Yes there are still flowers-A secret spot-3/22/17-HC

Monday, March 20, 2017

Swainson's Hawks Continue in Borrego Springs-March 19, 2017

March 19-Pam and Rose
March 20-Herb, Judy, Hal, Pam

March 19-Swainson's Hawks-580
March 20-Swainson's Hawks-711

March 19-Hawks came up in several kettles. Most leaving through Coyote Canyon. Seventy-five flew directly over the alternative count site. Most if not all of the hawks are spending the night near the potato fields. March 20-Hawks began moving along Coyote Mtn from Tamarisk Trees to the south of Henderson Canyon. They were easy to spot as they crossed Henderson Canyon Rd over the flower fields.

Evening Watch:
March 19-At least 400 hawks are still staging to the east of the evening watch site. They boil up every 15 minutes or so, spread out with some going very high. The numbers increase as the night approaches. By 6:30pm they go to roost her the potato fields in Tamarisk trees. Here is a youtube from the evening of March 19. https://youtu.be/rsMUhkXAdic
March 20-Around 150 Swainson's Hawks dropped in at 5:15pm

March 21-Probably best to view migrating hawks from Henderson Canyon Rd near the east end at the bend. Or first check in at the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd.

Subadult dark morph SW

Subadults with an adult

Saturday, March 18, 2017

March 15-March 18-2017-What An Incredible Migration Period

March 15-Laura
March 16-Rose
March 17-Pam
March 18-Hal

March 15-328 Swainson's Hawks
March 16-788      "
March 17-633      "
March 18-3,713 Swainson's Hawks

Today started off as any other day with kettles beginning to form around 8:30a hawk time. By the end of the first hour hawks began to stream. By the end of the second hour over 800 Swainson's Hawks had passed us. The next hour went crazy. We spotted a large kettle to the east. It finally emerged closer and as we clicked off the SW's another kettle formed to the east. Rose raised the cry that hawks were streaming in at an alarming rate. As one kettle formed near pyramid and streamed away, another kettle formed in the same area. This continued for more than an hour. At times the stream was too dense to count. We believe we missed a few hundred hawks! With a cramped hand from clicking, I had to switch to my other hand. This figure surpasses our previous record by over 2,000 hawks. Check out the youtube: https://youtu.be/j0gpeEGh8oI
We are not getting as many close photos this season. The hawks, although we have great numbers, are not coming close to the road. Most likely the number of flower viewers in town and traffic influence the hawks. I've been told we have had over 40,000 visitors each weekend day!

Evening Watch:
This evening around 200 or more hawks have descended into the valley. After the numbers that migrated today we were surprised.

If the wind remains light, migration will start between 9 and 10am. Again check in with the leaders at the alternate site on Di Giorgio Rd just south of Henderson Canyon Rd.

Evening boil of Swainson's Hawks-HC

Sunset from the evening watch-HC

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March 14, 2017 155 Swainson's Hawks Depart Town

Steve assisted by Judy and Pam

Swainson's Hawks-155
Turkey Vultures-12

Hawks in several kettles began to thermal up at 9:30a from a few locations. They streamed West and probably departed the valley at Palm Canyon or Coyote Canyon. Check out the youtube: https://youtu.be/g4YDFVojxWc
There will be plenty of traffic in town for the flowers. 

Evening Watch:
Over 300 Swainson's Hawks were observed east of Borrego Valley Rd. Most have taken to Creosote Bushes and Tamarisk Trees.

Hawks will probably begin to kettle up between 9 and 10am east of the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd. 1.8 mies north of Palm Canyon Drive. Light winds indicate a late lift-off. Caterpillars are now making a show.

Monday, March 13, 2017

March 9-13, 2017 Interesting Migration

March 9-Hal
March 10-Pam
March 11-Rose
March 12-Rose/Hal
March 13-Judy

March 9-19 Swainson's Hawks
March 10-37 SW's
March 11-32 SW's
March 12-209 SW's
March 13-35 SW's

Although we have a steady migration, the numbers are still low for this time of the season. The weather could be a factor. Temperatures in the mid-90's with very little wind may be slowing migration. We do have caterpillars and some feeding behavior. Flowers are peaking and the bloom is perhaps the best in 30 years. Even with many weedy non-native plants the flowers are wonderful. Of course thousands of folks are pouring into town making driving difficult. The hawks are moving to locations far from the madding crowd.

Audubon Magazine is now in town. Mac Stone, the photographer has some of his shots below. Also, the Birding Festival will begin on Wednesday.

Evening Watch Monday March 13:

This evening at 5pm somewhere between 125 and 150 hawks appeared to the east. They settled down into the mesquite dunes. See the youtube: https://youtu.be/e7vk2O3lIVs
Tomorrow expect a slight breeze in the morning. Temperatures will remain in the middle 90's. The hawks probably will get up between 9 and 10a. Best viewing from Henderson Canyon Rd east of Borrego Valley Rd. This is at the flower fields. The hawks are to the south of Henderson Canyon Rd. You can view the hawks taking off from the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd 1.8 miles north of Palm Canyon. Then move to Henderson. Traffic coming into town could cause some backup.

3/13/17 Mostly Light Morph SW's-Mac Stone
3/13/17 Nice shot with another flyer-Mac Stone
3/13/17TeTGreat shot of a Light and Dark Morph-Mac Stone
Yellow Sphinx Moth Caterpillar-Ted Spriggs Jr.
Dark Sphinx Moth Caterpillar-Ted Spriggs Jr. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

March 5-8, 2017-Aerial Feeding Continues and Caterpillars Spotted

March 5-Herb/Judy
March 6-Herb/Judy
March 7-Steve
March 8-Laura

March 5-15 Swainson's Hawks
March 6-0
March 7-54 Swainson's Hawks; 12 TV's
March 8-115 Swainson's Hawks

Hawks continue to arrive in small numbers. Today, Wed. March 8th saw an uptick in numbers. Several small kettles and one large kettle were observed from the alternate watch site. Aerial feeding (ants) took place for more than an hour before hawks departed the valley going northwest and west.

Evening Watch:
This evening we had several early hawks enter the valley. At 4:30pm hawks were observed very high and finally descending into the Date Farm and Roadrunner Club. At least 75 and probably more than 100 are in town. Lots of flying ants and some caterpillars are in the valley.

Warm (90) and calm wind tomorrow Thursday March 9. Expect lift-off of nice kettles between 8 and 9am. tomorrow. Flying ants might slow the migration. Best viewing spots are from the evening site 1.8 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive on Borrego Valley Rd; Di Giorgio Rd near Big Horn and at the alternate count site just south of Henderson Canyon on Di Giorgio Rd. I will be at the alternate site at 8am.

Flying Ants-A Mating Pair

SW Pouncing on Flying Ants
Typical Swainson's Hawk Shape at a Distance-HC-3/8/17
1960 Nash Metropolitan-This Evening-Always Something New At The Watch-3/8/1-HC

Saturday, March 4, 2017

March 3,4, 2017-Hawks Are Trickling Through and Feeding

March 3-Rose
March 4-Rose

March 3-3 Swainson's Hawks
March 4-17 Swainson's Hawks

Today, March 4, hawks were aerial feeding on flying ants. They spent more than an hour very close to the alternative count site on Di Giorgio Rd just south of Henderson Canyon Rd.

Evening Watch:
At least 37 Swainson's Hawks flew low to the Date Farm area. They may have been feeding in fields, although no caterpillars have been observed yet. Flowers are increasing in numbers and we expect caterpillars soon.

Unfortunately high wind is predicted early tomorrow so lift-off could be just after sunup.

TV on Di Giorgio Rd 3/2/17-HC

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Thursday March 2, 2017-A Crazy Day at the Watch

Hal assisted by Rose and Don Wallace

Swainson's Hawks-79
Turkey Vultures-36
Red-shouldered Hawk-1
Also observed a White-tailed Kite not migrating

At 8am I discovered a Swainson's Hawk across from the alternate watch site. At 8:30A hawks began to appear near the Date Farm and Ellis Farm. Small kettles formed throughout the morning. At 9:30A a call from Steve indicated a large kettle of mixed hawks (SW's and TV's) at 78 and Borrego Springs Rd. It took them an hour to make it to the watch area. We counted several hawks and vultures moving toward Palm Canyon.

Evening Watch:
No report this evening so probably no migration into town

Turkey Vultures Over DeAnza Country Club-2/2/17-Marcy Yates

The Week of February 21-February 28-Some Migration to Finish the Month

Feb. 21-Steve
Feb. 22-Laura
Feb. 23-Hal
Feb. 24-Rose
Feb. 25-Laura
Feb. 26-Hal
Feb. 27-Herb
Feb. 28-Steve
March 1-Laura

Feb. 21-11 SW's
Feb. 22-10 SW's; 1 TV
Feb. 23-0
Feb. 24-0
Feb. 25-21 SW's
Feb. 26-1 SW's
Feb. 27-0
Feb. 28-29
March 1-14 SW's; 1 Red-shouldered Hawk

The month of February came to an end with 29 Swainson's. The total month included 570 Swainson's Hawks, a record. The previous high was 384 in 2005. Does this mean that we will have a banner season? Perhaps. The valley is covered with green. Flowers are abundant. Now we wait for the voracious caterpillars. It's those pesky fat critters that might bring in a bumper crop of Swainson's. If previous seasons are indicators, this one could be the best ever. The recent rain has provided enough moisture to prime even more flowers. The rainy front probably backed up the SW's and this evening we expect more hawks. We'll see.

Evening Watch March 1:
Eleven Swainson's Hawks spent some time above the Date Farm before putting down for the night.

Very light wind predicted for March 2. The hawks probably will take off late-8:30-9:30AM. We are still waiting for another big hawk migration. Last year we had a large group arrive on March 5. From March 8-26 we had hundreds of hawks in the valley daily. Wildflowers are in abundance but not peaking yet. Very few caterpillars have been observed. Next week we expect caterpillars to begin to show up in abundance and of course the hawks as well.
Henderson Rd Flower Field-Sunflowers-3/1/17-HC

Desert Lily-End of Di Giorgio Rd-3/1/17-HC

Dune Evening Primrose-End of Di Giorgio Rd-3/1/17-HC

Evening Watch 3/1/17-Borrego Valley Rd-HC

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday February 20, 2017-A Record Day For February

Assisted by:

Swainson's Hawks-489
Cooper Hawks-2
Turkey Vultures-11

A remarkable beginning of the season dashing the records for February! At 8:30am two large kettles formed over the Date Farm. The hawks streamed west/northwest and out of the valley.

Evening Watch:
This evening 13 Swainson's came in and spent some time drifting about. A few are roosting in Tamarisk Trees far to the east. Some might be in the Date Farm

Wind should be calm so we are looking for lift-off between 8 and 9AM.

Waiting to Migrate-HC

Eucalyptus Tree With SW's-HC

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