Tuesday, March 16, 2021

March 6-16, 2021-Some Great Migration Days, Including the Second Highest Count Day In 19 Years-March 13-2,736 Swainson's Hawks

Leaders and assistants:
Richard,Craig,Ted,Seldon,Jane,Judy,Susan,HalK,Hal,Francie,Randy Marilyn,Pete,Johnathan,Nancy K,Nancy M. 

                        Swainson's Hawks        Turkey Vultures        Other Hawks
March 6-                  14 
March 7-                  51                                      1                    1 Red-shouldered Hawk 
March 8-                 304                                     79 
March 9-                 11                                       3 
March 10-               346                                     9     
March 11-               133                                    
March 12-               110                                     21
March 13-               2731                                   11
March 14-               118 
March 15-               409 

Discussion: March Migration produced more migrant hawks than expected. We have had a very dry year thus far, with less than 2 inches of rain. So insects have been virtually absent. We did have one day of aerial feeding (probably feeding on flying ants). We have had several days with high wind. On March 13, hawks were migrating before sunup. 

A Dark Swainson's Hawk-Ted Spriggs Jr.

A Juvenile Dark Rufous Swainson's Hawk-Marion Brown

Swainson's Hawks Going to Ground-Ted Spriggs Jr.


Friday, March 5, 2021

Beginning of the Season-Slow Start With Hopes-February 28-March 5, 2021

 A New Season With New Leaders and Observers

Our veteran crew is not available this season as the virus puts a damper on coverage. Thankfully we have new eyes to the sky. 

In February we counted only 5 Swainson's Hawks, 24 Turkey Vultures, 1 Red-tailed Hawk. In March so far, we counted 54 Swainson's Hawks, 1 Turkey Vulture and 2 Northern Harriers. 

Our counters and observers this season include:

Craig Johnson, Don White, Jane Helms, Jan Henry, Johnathan Williams, Judy Spaulding, Marilyn Dickson, Nancy Keeley, Nancy McRae, Pam Albers, Pete McRae, Richard Shutler, and Susan Plumb

Migration Discussion: We have had an interesting weather pattern with predominant wind from the south, southeast and east. An afternoon of rain Wednesday March 3rd pushed over 150 Swainson's toward Cochella Valley. So far our high count of Swainson's Hawks is 38 observed on March 1. The wind pattern is due to change the evening of March 5. This may bring more Swainson's into the valley. We have no flowers and no caterpillars, grasshoppers or flying ants to attract hawks. 

Opportunities: Join us as a volunteer-Contact Hal Cohen Raptorhal3@gmail.com

Photographers: A few photographers are beginning to come into town. Congratulations to Ted Springs Jr. for not only entering the annual park photo contest, he won an award for one of his shots. This is the first entry of Swainson's Hawks throughout several years of the contest. 

        Winner In the Anza Borrego Desert State Park Photo Contest-Lords of Sunrise-Ted Spriggs Jr. 

                                                            Lords Of Vertigo-Ted Spriggs Jr. 

We now have a famous dance group that have partnered up to add spark to our counter collection:



More Serious Hawkettes-Jane Helms, Judy Spaulding, and Susan Plumb

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March 31, 2020-A Late Blog For a Very Strange Season

Late blog but we are still functioning.The slow migration and of course the very fast moving virus have conspired to slow down hawk migration posts. We are continuing to monitor the hawk migration through Borrego Valley. So far we have become diligent concerning social distances. We will continue to watch for hawks in the evening and count them leaving the valley in the morning. We've only had a few days with a number of hawks. Thanks to all the folks that have kept our watch functioning during this trying time. Our hearts go out to those folks that are impacted by this awful

Since our last and only blog, March 17th we've had only three days with a number of migrants. March 19 was memorable because most of the hawks (581 Swainson's Hawks) kettled up at the same time. The massive kettle was quite visible from the count site. On March 29th we had a steady stream of hawks that totaled 374 at the end of the watch. Today, April 1, we had 114 late migrants that must have roosted east of Pegleg. Here is the address of a youtube from March 19. Also below are photos taken in the area.


Leaders for the past several days:
Hal Cohen
Pam Albers
Kirtland Smith
Candace Hess
Marilyn Dickson
Cory Laughlin
Laura Webb
Don White
Tracy Geernaert

Observers assisting the leaders:
Tommy Antel
Gary Hilton
Craig Johnson
Susan Plumb
Tony Rutigliano
Richard Shutler
Ken Smith
Ted Spriggs
Mark Stevens
Randy Lenon

New Sign Created by Craig Johnson
Adult Male Light Intermediate-HC
Social Distance at the Hawkwatch-Kirt Smith

LIght Morph Female Swainson's-Michael Schultz

Dark Morph-Michael Schultz

Tommy and Stella
Social Distance-Pam Albers
Prairie Falcon With Prey-Randy Lenon
Prairie Falcon-Randy Lenon
Prairie Falcon With Lizard-Randy Lenon

Prairie Falcon-Black Median Coverts Obvious-Randy Lenon

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

March 17th 2020-The Hawkwatch Continues Despite the Virus

Borrego Springs is responding to the Coronavirus crisis as is the rest of the nation and world. For all of us at the hawkwatch, our hearts go out to those that are suffering from the virus and hardships that have been created. We are trying to continue monitoring the migration of Swainson's Hawks and at the same time remain safe. At both the day watch and evening watch we ask folks to not congregate on the hill. A sign is posted at the bottom of the day site hill indicating that only the leader and assistants should climb the hill. At the evening site we ask folks to maintain a respectful distance from each other and do not share scopes.

I will NOT be sending out ALERTS to 400 plus folks when we have enormous numbers of Swainson's Hawks in town. To curtail the spread of the virus we are trying to minimize travel to the area. However, the number of hawks recently has taken a nosedive. So travel to Borrego Springs for the hawks is a non-starter. I believe that a recent flower bloom with possible caterpillars in Organ Pipe National Park, Arizona and the contiguous biosphere park in Mexico have stalled migration. The Swainson's Hawks are probably gorging on the caterpillars (if present). I am trying to locate someone in the area of Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico with information concerning the possible food source.

Here are some recent photos of hawks that we observed last week.
Tuck Russell-SW feeding on Crane Flies

Tuck Russell-Feeding on Crane Flies

Tuck Russell

Hal With the Only Bird of Prey He Can Photograph

Kettle of Hawks-Karen Orso

Early Morning Gathering on Mesquite Dunes Before Migrating-Karen Orso

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Borrego Valley Hawkwatch 2020-February 21-March 7

February 21-March 7, 2020-New Faces and Some Nice Swainson's Hawks

Date:               Leader:
February 21    Hal Cohen
February 22    Marilyn Dickson
February 23    Marilyn Dickson
February 24   Tracee Geerhaert
February 25    Candace Hess
February 26    Candace Hess
February 27    Laura Webb
February 28    Hal Cohen
February 29    Candace Hess
March 1           Laura Webb
March 2           Hal Cohen
March 3           Candace Hess
March 4           Tracee Geehaert
March 5           Laura Webb
March 6           Don White
March 7           Don White  

Feb. 21-0
Feb. 22-0
Feb. 23-1 Northern Harrier
Feb. 24-8 Swainson's Hawks (SW's)
Feb. 25-0
Feb. 26-0
Feb. 27-0
Feb. 29-6 SW's
March 1-0
March 2-5 SW's
March 3-0
March 4-271 SW's; 5 Turkey Vultures (TV's)
March 5-84 SW's; 2 TV's
March 6-25 SW's; 1 TV
March 7-351 SW's

The beginning of the season began with only a trickle of hawks, until March 4th. The evening of March 3 we witnessed a large kettle of hawks finally settling into the date farm. The evening of March 6th we watched two waves of approximately 250 hawks drop into an area near The Springs RV Park. The first you tube can be accessed at: 

On March 4th and 5th we watched several hawks aerial feeding on Crane Flies. Attached is a photo taken on March 7th. The flies are everywhere throughout the valley. The adult flies live for a few weeks and apparently do not feed but only mate. On March 7th a very strong NW wind got the hawks up early. The totals for 7th was 351 SW's

Evening Watch:
Saturday March-At least 47 SW's flew low directly over watchers at the hill

Sunday March 8th-migration of around 50 or more SW's. With the time change the hawks will probably begin to kettle and feed around 9am.

Adult Light Inermediate SW-Hal
The Day Watch-Hal
Date Farm-The Evening of March 7-Ted Springs

Tommy and Stella At the Evening Watch-Deborah Lebo

Jude-Our Youngest Watcher
Late Evening at the Night Watch-Kirt Smith

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Borrego Valley Hawkwatch-Post Season Highlights-Thursday April 4-Sunday April 7, 2019

The season has been completed, however the hawks continue. A few days after we officially finished the season, we discovered a huge congregation of hawks in the old potato fields to the east and also east of the airport . As anticipated, hawks that had been feeding in Mexico and locations other than Borrego Springs began entering the valley. On Thursday and Friday April 4 and 5, over a 1,000 Swainson's Hawks were observed at several locations. Today, Saturday April 6, we witnessed around 500 hawks mainly from the airport location. The wind at the Henderson Canyon Rd site was raging at 30-40mph. Although we are not counting hawks as they migrate, we are continuing to alert the public. It's still a thrill to observe hundreds of hawks kettling and feeding. Check out the youtube from Friday April 6th near the airport. https://youtu.be/qp40E4YUNBY

Just got word (5:30pm Saturday April 6) that around 100 hawks dropped into the dunes at Old Springs Road-road to the dump off of S-22 where it turns north. This is the Old Springs County Preserve as you drive onto Old Springs Rd.

Sunday April 7, a day to remember. We checked out the county preserve and found a half dozen hawks on creosote bushes. I then went to the hill south of Henderson Canyon. We will have to name this hill as it provides a great overview of potential roosting and feeding sites. I spotted over 100 hawks on the ground and another 150 kettling up. As I scanned to the east I picked up an additional 50-75 hawks in a kettle. Hawks began to rise and stream all around me. All of the hawks eventually moved to the north and west, streaming out of the valley. I had at least 8 separate kettles of hawks at one time after the initial departure. I believe the total count was around 500+ hawks.

Monday April 8, I thought it was over! Well over 300 hawks migrated today. The best viewing was on Henderson Canyon Rd. I've decided to name the hill south of Henderson Canyon Rd "Lily Hill". There are several Desert Lily Plants on the Hill.
Desert Lilies at Lily Hil

Our first photo is of Andy, our greeter at the evening watch. In this photo he is vocalizing. The life span of an Anna's Hummingbird is 8.5 years. Andy is at least 8 years old. All the hawk shots were taken April 5-6. All of the hawks below are Swainson's Hawks. Named for Swainson's a 19th century naturalist by Lucian Bonaparte (nephew of Napoleon) based on a painting by John James Audubon that was created by a specimen caught by Townsend. A remarkable combination of famous naturalists and artists.

Our Official Greeter At The Evening Watch-HC

Adult Rufous Morph SW-Dave Clark

Adult Light Morph SW-Dave Clark
Nice Kettle of Swainson's Hawks-Aedyn Loefke

Adult Female Morph SW-Tom Hamilton

Adult Light Morph SW-Tom Hamilton
Adult Dark Rufous SW-Frimmel Smith

Adult Light Morph SW-Frimmel Smith

Sub-Adult SW-Frimmel Smith

Sub-adult Dark Morph SW-Frimmel Smith
Light Morph SW Taken With I-phone-Dana/Megan Draper

Light Morph SW-Frimmel Smith
Subadult Light Intermediate SW-Ted Spriggs Jr. 
Canadian Paratroppers Passing a Swainson's Hawk-HC
Adult Light Intermediate morph SW-Kwan Choo

Adult Male Light Morph SW-Kwan Choo

Adult Male Light Morph SW-Kwan Choo

Dark Morph SW-Kwan Choo

Monday, April 1, 2019

March 30-March 31, 2019-Finally A Day With a Decent Migration

Leaders: March 28, 29, 30, 31

March 28-Swainson's Hawks-2
March 29-0
March 30 Swainson's Hawks-371; Turkey Vultures-6
March 31-57 Swainson's Hawks

After a virtual hawk drought, we had a wonderful evening event March 29. We counted 511 Swainson's Hawks dropping into the date farm. On March 30th we counted 371 Swainson's Hawks migrating and around 100 going east to feed. March 31st, our last official count day yielded an additional 57 Swainson's Hawks. We did see some hawks (around 17) the evening of March 31st. I received a message of about 100 hawks feeding in fields to the east as well. We will continue to monitor the evening watch but will not record migration.

This season did not produce many highlights. The average seasonal totals for 17 years-Swainson's Hawks is 4,523. Our total Swainson's Hawk count for 2019 is 1,086. THIS IS NOT AN APRIL FOOLS JOKE. This is the lowest count we have ever had.

The question of "why are the number of hawks down this season, with all the food available". It's because of the abundance of food throughout Southern California and Northern Mexico that our hawk numbers are down. The hawks have spread out throughout the region and don't need to come to Borrego Valley to feed. Perhaps after the caterpillars have diminished in numbers, the hawks will migrate through the valley. It would have to happen within the next week as the hawks will have gone north one way or another.

The caterpillars (see below) come in several color morphs. The question remains, why different morphs?

Light Morph Swainson's Hawk-Randy Lenon

Light Intermediate Morph Swainson's Hawk-Randy Lenon

Light Morph Eating An Ant? Randy Lenon

Small Kettle-Randy Lenon

Possible Sphinx Moth Egg-Little Surprise Canyon-Randy Lenon

Tiny Caterpillar in the Background-First Instar-HC

Dark White-lined Sphinx Caterpillars-Randy Lenon

Green White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar-Ted Spriggs Jr. 

Yellow White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar-Ted Spriggs Jr.