In the course of seven days we’ve gone from the worst season ever at Smith Point [Hawk Watch]to being on the verge of breaking the all-time total for both Broad-wings and the count as a whole. Amazing how quickly things can turn around. ~ Susan Heath, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory & Smith Point Hawk Watch at Candy Abshier WMA

Watching the raptors come in at Candy Abshier WMA

Watching the raptors come in at Candy Abshier WMA

 The numbers and waves of raptors coming across Chambers County, and being noted and counted by researchers and birders at the Observation tower at the Candy Abshier WMA, is unbelievable right now! We wanted to share with you this “first person” report by Chambers County birder and Gulf Coast Bird Observatory counter, Joseph Kennedy:  

“The total for Sunday was a piddling 24,000 birds with 87,000 total broad-wings in the last 5 days.” ~ Joseph Kennedy

From: Joseph Kennedy
Date: Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 10:16 AM
Subject: [texbirds] Smith point hawk watch broad-wings and dark broad-wings
To:Texbirds 

“I made it down to the hawk watch early on Sunday before sunrise. As I was passing Frankland road north of town, numbers of broad-winged hawks were upin the air at 7:15. This area is a traditional roosting site for hawks that arrive in the area late in the day but normally they are up much later when the thermals start up. More hawks were up in the air down near the tower and some were already out along Hawkins Camp Road. So maybe 500 hawks before sunrise. 

The early liftoff continued and huge numbers were up and about way before any self-respecting broad-wing should be flying. A good northeast winds gave them enough lift to move and gather. Several set down in the mottes while numbers grew. I went out to try for land bird migrants in the northwest motte and found only a few birds. Perhaps 15+ broad-winged hawks,

3 cooper’s hawks and 2 great horned owls sitting in the woods kept birds down and quiet. Several more cooper’s, several sharp-shinned hawks and 1 merlin also headed through the woods along with lots of broad-wings.

Dark phase among light phase Broad-winged Hawks.  Photo: Joseph Kennedy

Dark phase among light phase Broad-winged Hawks. Photo: Joseph Kennedy

I spent the next hour or so at the edge of the woods just watching the parade of broad-wings just overhead. Kettles and sheets going north and south, east and west, splitting and joining and always more birds coming from way off north. I had either 6 or 7 dark phase broad-winged hawks here including one really neat adult bird. Almost all dark birds I have seen in past years have been young of the year. Most broad-wings that show up later are also young of the year but the herd today included a large portion of adults compared to past late swarms where an adult is remarkable.

Somewhere around this time I lost complete track of how many hawks were going and coming and never did get oriented as to which kettles were new and which were repeats. It is really hard work to count in such conditions and really is not compatible with watching and enjoying the birds which is what I did today. Back at the tower a great sheet of birds went overhead including 15 dark broad-wings which may or may not have included the birds from earlier in the day. This was the biggest number of birds I have ever seen at one time at the point. As was mentioned, Saturdays total of 26,000 broad-wings was the 3rd best day ever. I was present for the other 2 great days and this one flock which was close in and in great light greatly outdid in numbers anything from those 2 days. The total for Sunday was a piddling 24,000 birds with 87,000 total broad-wings in the last 5 days.

Sort of moves the season from about the worst ever to one of the best. However, counts of other hawks for the day was miniscule but 3 bald eagles were nice. This is the start of the swainson’s hawk peak but there were only a dozen plus but 2 or 4 were dark birds. There was a very nice younger white-tailed hawk and a red-tailed hawk. There are land birds around but I could not find many. Some of the cooper’s hawks did find birds and had full crops when they went over. When I went north from town around 4:30 I looked for hawks going to roost or still up in the air.”

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