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.

Note-The blog is not posted every day. You are welcome to join the ALERT System by emailing me at to be put on the list. You may also find info at

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Hawks Continue-March 13-March 28, 2018

March 13-Laura Webb

Swainson's Hawks-111
Turkey Vultures-18

3/13/18 we had several hawks on the ground. Some were foraging for flying ants. Aerial feeding was also evident. So the mystery is solved. Having ants available as a food source in dry conditions is unusual. Today the hawks kettled up very late as the weather conditions did not favor migration. It was hot with still air. By 10am however the hawks were on the move.

Evening Watch:
This evening only around 10 Swainson's Hawks were observed.

It might be a bit windy tomorrow early so migration may start by 7am.

Feeding on Ants-Frimmel Smith

Great shot of 5 SW's Together-Frimmel Smith

Feeding on Ants-Frimmel Smith

Ant in the Talons Maybe-Frimmel Smith

Flying Ant-HC

Monday, March 12, 2018

Incredible Migration Today-March 11, 2018-1,313 Swainson's Hawks

Hal Cohen assisted Herb Stone, Judy Davis and John Peterson and many other folks

Swainson's Hawks-1,313

At least 12 large kettles formed during a one hour migration. Hawks streamed by continuously. The roost sites included the Date Farm (now called Evans Ranch); The Roadrunner Club; And points out east. The hawks took time to find any air movement. They drifted about to the east until the ground warmed up. Some kettles had a few hundred hawks. I am hoping that folks that took videos will share them. Below are a few shots of the large kettles One shot in particular shows the depth and spiral motion of a kettle.

Evening Watch Monday March 12, 2018:
This evening we were treated to several hawks close and low and in Eucalyptus Trees in the Date Farm. Around 100 hawks settled into the trees. Photo's to appear with the next blog.

With light wind predicted the hawks will most likely take off between 7:30am and 9am. We'll start at the evening site on Borrego Valley Rd. 1.5 miles north of Palm Canyon Drive. We'll move over to DiGiorgio Rd if the hawks move straight west.

A shot of a huge kettle twisting upwards-Ted Spriggs
Another angle of a large kettle-Ted Spriggs

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Continuing Migration of Swainson's Hawks-March 7-11, 2018-ALERT-350-500 HAWKS IN TOWN

March 7-Herb Stone and Judy Davis
March 8-Herb Stone and Judy Davis
March 9-Laura Webb and Hal Cohen
March 10-Rose Leong
March 11-Hal Cohen Don White

March 7-28 Swainson's Hawks
March 8-22 Swainson's Hawks; 9 Turkey Vultures; 1 Red-tailed Hawk
March 9-85 Swainson's Hawks; 9 Turkey Vultures
March 10-10 Swainson's Hawks
March 11-48 Swainson's Hawks

Although slow we are experiencing continued migration. On March 7th the hawks cooperated and flew directly over the old watch site. Roost sites for the 7th and 8th were the Date Farm and Roadrunner Club. March 9the was an interesting day. 24 Swainson's left early with some wind. At 8:30am a large kettle formed over the Date Farm. The hawks moved directly west and provided some good looks from DiGiorgio Rd and Big Horn. Several birds spent some time aerial feeding. We are not sure of the insect id. There is no apparent flying ant explosion. We had some nice small kettles on March 11.

Evening Watch-Sunday March 11, 2017:
This evening well over 350 Swainson's Hawks were spotted at 6:45pm. They apparently descended into the Date Farm-now called Evans Ranch.

Prediction-Monday March 12:
Light wind predicted to lift-off between 8:30 and 9:30am. Best views from the evening site on Borrego Valley and Digiorgio Rd near Big Horn. We should have some spectacular kettles.

Hundreds of Swainson's 3/11/18-HC

Another shot of Hundreds of Hawks-3/11/18-HC

SW-Barbara Barnes

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

A Wonderful Day For Viewing and Photography-March 6, 2018

Leader-Tuesday March 6, 2018
Laura Webb

Swainson's Hawks-187
Turkey Vultures-17

The number of hawks exceeded the prediction of yesterday evening. Several SW kettles formed from the Date Farm and an area to the south. Also several Turkey Vultures joined the hawks. I've been asked about evening and day numbers. In the evening we estimate the number of hawks flying in. We also establish the prime roost location. The evening estimate is wrong most of the time. Our count Monday evening was off quite a bit (120+observed in the evening). Often after the initial touch down there will be additional hawks, even after we have gone home. This morning I noticed hawks flying in from the east to join the prime group. There are often multiple roost sites in one evening. Today photographers got some great shots of perched birds along the road. Also the kettles and streaming hawks across DiGiorgio Rd were spectacular. The photos below are mine with a small Lumix camera. I am hoping that the number of photographers with real camera's and lenses out there today will share their shots.

I was also asked the question as to why so close this season. Last season we had an abundance of food available and the hawks spent most of there time foraging away from typical roost sites. When they finished feeding they retreated to nearby roosts. These roosts were a distance from the observers.

Evening Watch:
This evening only 8 Swainson's Hawks came in. Of course it's possible we missed some. They may have descended into the back of the Date Farm or the Roadrunner Club.

Wind should be light tomorrow so expect the hawks to kettle up between 8 and 9am.

Along Borrego Valley Rd-HC
Very Dark SW-HC
Another View-HC

A Kettle From a Distance-Light Morphs Showing Up and A TV-HC

Very Dark Morph-HC

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hawks Are Beginning to Show Up in Numbers

February 26-Hal Cohen/Herb Stone/Judy Davis
February 27-Hal Cohen
February 28-No Count
March 1-Herb Stone/Judy Davis
March 2-Rose Leong
March 3-Rose Leong
March 4-Hal Cohen
March 5-Rose Leong

February 26-63 Swainson's Hawks: 4 Turkey Vultures
February 27-0
February 28-No Count
March 1-52 Swainson's Hawks; 5 Turkey Vultures
March 2-15 Swainson's Hawks
March 3-0
March 4-0
March 5-23 Swainson's Hawks

The season started with a bang-63 SW's. Then we had a slow down for a few days and again a nice count. After a few 0 days we had a fair day then an evening with over 100 Swainson's Hawks. There are also several Turkey Vultures in town.

We are in need of good photos to display on the blog. Send me your photos.

Evening Watch:
This evening, March 5 we had a large kettle of hawks descend into the Date Farm. They remained in the air for almost half an hour to the delight of several onlookers. Some were observed in trees from the entrance to the farm. Over 100 hawks are now in the Date Farm after a great view of the incoming hawks.

Light wind is predicted for tomorrow March 6. Lift-off of probably a large kettle or 2 or 3 will take place between 8 and 9am. Best viewing probably from the evening site.

Watching The Swainson's Hawks-Very High-HC

5 Swainson's Settling In For the Night-HC

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Begin the 2018 Season-February 27

We began the 2018 season on February 27. Sixty-three Swainson's Hawks were counted.
Adult Male Light Intermediate Morph Swainson's Hawk-HC