With perfect conditions for a big day,Walter and I arrived shortly after sunrise. We were not disappointed. 27 raptors went by pre-9am,shades of things to come. It was our best day ever at Rosetta McClain Gardens Raptor Watch. The bird du jour was Turkey Vultures! They provided great views,both up close and kettling in groups. Ann Brokelman provided fantastic photos today. Above is a long view of part of a kettle of Turkey Vultures. Below is a closer view into the kettle. To explain the term kettle:this is when a large group of vultures circle together,rising on a thermal(warm air),gaining altitude. The circling together is the bubbling water in a kettle. When they reach the top of the thermal,the kettle comes to a boil. The birds break off and fly onward(actually drifting down as they float away,only to find another thermal,spiral up and continue onward again..this saves alot of energy as very little energy is put out during this process,the vultures barely flap) The individuals flying off the top of the kettle is the steam escaping. Thus the analogy to a kettle.
All day long,raptors kept flying and hourly counts increased every hour from 9am until 3pm,with the highest hourly count of all raptors being 159,or more then 2 per minute!
Here are several close-up captures,by Ann. Thanks so much for all your great photos. Chosing from todays selection was very tough. I chose to highlight the Turkey Vulture and add a few other species that flew in good numbers today.
I thought this beautiful shot of a Broadwinged Hawk showed not only the bird but the beautiful sky we had to see the birds in today!
We saw many Sharp-shinned Hawks today too. 205 in all.
Those gathered were also treated to many close-up views of Northern Harriers. Todays total of 36,brought the seasons total to 214,up impressively over recent years counts.
There is no way to describe the excitement a mega-day brings. We enjoyed incredible views of so many birds. They were above us,below us,near and not so near. Todays 4 Merlin set another season record,taking us to 62 Merlins sighted,our previous high was 60. When I was going through the possible records which could be broken this season,needing 73 American Kestrels in October,to achieve 680(one over our old high total)didnt seem possible. Kestrel numbers wain in October. With a large movement of Kestrels today,we indeed broke the record all in one day! We saw 73 Kestrels!! Thanks to everyone who attended and contributed today. While it got confusing at times,noone went home disappointed. Thanks Gunner,Ann,Carol,Berle,Bill,Hugh,Ron P,Betty,Lee,Pat and Nancy,Ron,Tim,Cori(for yet another coffee run and Timbits(should we buy shares??),Richard,Brad and a cast of thousands(well not quite,but I was so busy I didnt get everyones names) As always Walter was spotting,hosting and recording too. Without his help,things definetly wouldnt go near as well as they do! Thanks buddy. Did I mention,we had 4 Bald Eagles and our first Northern Goshawk of the year!!
Many small birds were also on the move early in the day. We observed a Rusty Blackbird,which landed in the park,thousands of Redwinged Blackbirds and Brown-headed Cowbirds fly past,a Hairy Woodpecker,a Purple Finch and Ron Pittaway ID'd a Pine Siskin as it went by. Great job everyone!
The totals...oh ya:
4............Bald Eagles(2 juveniles 1130am and 1138am,2 adults 1130am and 1134am)
73..........American Kestrel(new season record 680)
4............Merlin(new season record 62)
946.......Total...A new one day sight record count!!
The next several days have potential to be very good. Remember on winds with an east element birds go higher! We may be looking at alot of distant birds today. Dress warm!
The next several days all have potential.