Friday, May 05, 2006

Sandy Hook Hawk Watch

Ah, what a beautiful, warm spring day. I had the honor to cover for the regular counter at the Sandy Hook Hawk Watch today at Sandy Hook, NJ. The count runs from March 15 - May 15 and this time of year is a great chance to see rarities like Mississippi and Swallow-Tailed Kite. The count time begins at 9:00, but I started birding around 7:00 to see what I could find before being confined to a wooden coutning platform for 9 hours. I was treated to many wonderful warblers, vireos, and other spring migrants. The Hook was hopping with birds and birders sharing sightings. Along one trail, I saw the mighty tiger of the north woods... a perched Great Horned Owl (below). Always a nice find!

9:00 came quickly and I headed up to the hawk watch platform located at the far northern end of Sandy Hook. The concept of the hawk watch here is simple: western winds push the hawks toward the coast and southern winds help them to cross the bay towards NY. So, any combination of these winds can mean a decent day of counting. Unfortunately, today was not one of those days... the winds were mostly N/NW. The 9:00 hour passed and no hawks came over. Not good. The 10:00 hour came and 1 Sharp-Shinned Hawk was the only bird. So, it didn't look like it would be a good hawk day. On the other hand, it was a great day for other birds. I spent most of the time looking for warblers, tanagers, sparrows, and anything else that would fly by. The migration of Blue Jays was staggering. Groups of 20-30 birds would fly by every few minutes moving north. Even though raptors were few and far between, I did manage to see or hear 64 species of birds just from my small little platform. Not too shabby! The highlight of the day was the last bird I saw before leaving - a brilliant male Summer Tanager! I was able to turn a bad hawk day into a great day of birding. I also had many visitors, both new and experienced birders, who satisfied my gift for the gab.

The platform!

I'm starting to look like that 10,000 Birds crew...

One of the few hawks to pass by - a Red-Tail

Mom and dad Rose-Breasted Grosbeak


LauraHinNJ said...

Too bad you were stuck up on the watch today. I spent a few hours on Raccoon Alley, but never made it as far as the hawkwatch. You saw Summer - I saw Scarlet! Can't beat that.

saraherickson76655719 said...
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Patrick B. said...

Sorry I missed you Laura! I had a wonderful day... time to nurse my sunburn.