Wednesday, November 05, 2008

2008 Hawk & Owl season totals

(Thanks to Kyle for pulling this info together & authoring this post ....)

Hey all,

Just a quick sum up of the 2008 hawkwatch and owl banding programs, which ended on the 31st and 28th of October respectively. For those of you who just want the numbers, they are found at the end of this post.

The hawkwatching season ended on a pretty slow note, with daily totals for 9 of the last 21 days of the count in the single digits, and a peak daily flight in that 3 week period of only 32 birds. While the overall numbers for the count were less than 100 birds shy of the long term average, a majority of these birds were Turkey Vultures. In fact, Turkey Vultures had a record breaking year in 2008, with the total of 2069 of the large, dark birds counted being almost double their long term average at the site. The other four species that normally compose the bulk of the count (Red-tailed Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and American Kestrel) were all well below their historical averages. It should be noted that the 2008 Kestrel total of 821 individuals is a huge rebound from the past two years when the species’ numbers did not break 600, and the 2008 Kestrel count is about 80 birds above the average for the five year period from 2004-2008 for the site, all good signs for the small falcon that has conservationists so concerned.

While those species that are usually most common at Lucky Peak had a poor year, it was a decent year for ‘glamour’ birds. 2008 saw Lucky Peak’s second highest count of Golden Eagles (72), the third highest counts for Broad-winged (28) and Rough-legged Hawks (8), and the fourth highest count of Swainson’s Hawks (93). The glamour bird that did not keep with this trend was the Northern Goshawk, with only 12 of the large Accipiters headed south past Lucky Peak, well below the previous low count for the species of 22 and even further below the 14 year average of 41.

An adult, light Broad-winged Hawk photographed on 9-15-08 by Jake Schas.

Of course, the counters were able to add a new species to the count, the hatch-year Gyrfalcon who flew southwest after being trapped on October 11th, but the number of species counted this year remains the same 18 that it is in most years, with Ferruginous Hawks being completely missed. While Lucky Peak counts for this Buteo have never topped 6 individuals per season, 2008 was only the third year in which the species was missed entirely.

While the hawk flight was a mixed bag in 2008, the owl banders had a stellar year. A new record for Flammulated Owls was set with the 62 birds captured besting the previous high for the site by 11 individuals. Northern Saw-whet Owls also had a good year, with the total of 178 new Saw-whets banded being second highest in numbers only to 1999’s irruption year (when 848 were banded). Two other owl species were captured and banded in 2008: a single Western Screech-owl and two Long-eared Owls. Great-horned Owls were also heard on most evenings, and while this was the first year in IBO’s history where Northern Pygmy Owls were not caught in either owl or songbird nets, a handful of the little predators were heard on various occasions throughout the latter part of the season.

A Flammulated Owl (after being banded); photographed on 9-4-08 by Kaia Colestock.

Okay, so as promised, here are the 2008 raptor numbers:

Migrating raptors seen on Hawkwatch in 491.5 hours of observation between 25 August and 31 October, 2008:

Turkey Vulture – 2069
Bald Eagle – 7
Osprey – 54
Northern Harrier – 170
Sharp-shinned Hawk – 914
Cooper’s Hawk – 532
Northern Goshawk – 12
Red-shouldered Hawk – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 8
Broad-winged Hawk – 28
Swainson’s Hawk – 93
Red-tailed Hawk – 760
Golden Eagle – 72
American Kestrel – 821
Merlin – 32
Peregrine Falcon – 6
Prairie Flacon – 6
Gyrfalcon – 1
Total – 5844

(for those of you doing the math, the overall total included a number of unidentified raptors)

Owls Banded at Lucky Peak between 28 August and 28 October, 2008:

Flammulated Owl – 62
Northern Saw-whet Owl – 178
Long-eared Owl – 2
Western Screech-owl – 1

Thanks for an awesome season to all who helped with all projects at Lucky Peak, and be sure to head up the hill next year for more fun and excitement while observing fall migration!

Kyle Wright
Mission: to contribute to the conservation of western migratory landbirds through cooperative research and public education