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Boothe Park Hawk Watch 2015 Season

Posted on Sep 13, 2015

We are now well into the fall hawk watch season as sites across the country are staffed by citizen scientists engaged in counting raptors heading south for the winter. Various hawk, falcon, vulture, eagle, and kite species plus birds like the Osprey, Northern Harrier and even some owls can be tallied on conducive flight days at migratory hotspots often situated along ridges or at the edge of a body of water. Counting these birds helps keep track of raptor populations on an international scale, gauging the health of these important predator species that have often been threatened by human action, from hunting to chemical pollution. These sites contribute their data to the Hawk Migration Association of North America, founded in 1974 with a mission, “To advance the scientific knowledge and promote conservation of raptor populations through study, enjoyment, and appreciation of raptor migration.” I am the coordinator of one such site – the Boothe Memorial Park Hawk Watch in Stratford, Connecticut that Frank Mantlik, Charles Barnard Jr. and I started in late 2008 thanks to Frank’s observations. You can find our site’s profile with how it all started, general guidelines, information and directions here: http://www.hawkcount.org/siteinfo.php?rsite=703

Boothe Park clock tower 09-11-15-0049

Boothe Memorial Park clock tower where we conduct our count (on the ground!) with the golden eagle pointing north – good winds, good sky

While being staffed by volunteers and with many other responsibilities for me to take care of, the site is usually only covered on days where we know the conditions will be right for a great hawk flight. We usually have several terrific days each year with a couple dozen more that produce a decent number of birds. This year I will be training two of our wonderfully talented Bridgeport WildLife Guards, Talisha Ortiz and Jamiya Williams, who will be volunteering their time to help complete these raptor observations and conduct some outreach with park visitors who always wonder what we are staring at in the sky. After all their hard work this summer they will spend the fall contributing even more to avian conservation and environmental education. I visited Boothe for part of the day on September 4, but I had my first full day there this past Friday with the results and details below:

Boothe Memorial Park
Stratford, Connecticut, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Sep 11, 2015
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Species            Day's Count    Month Total   Season Total
------------------ ----------- -------------- --------------
Black Vulture                0              2              2
Turkey Vulture               3              3              3
Osprey                     107            170            170
Bald Eagle                  12             20             20
Northern Harrier             1              1              1
Sharp-shinned Hawk          41             44             44
Cooper's Hawk                3              3              3
Northern Goshawk             0              0              0
Red-shouldered Hawk          0              0              0
Broad-winged Hawk            8             17             17
Red-tailed Hawk              0              0              0
Rough-legged Hawk            0              0              0
Golden Eagle                 0              0              0
American Kestrel             9             11             11
Merlin                       5              5              5
Peregrine Falcon             0              1              1
Unknown Accipiter            0              0              0
Unknown Buteo                0              0              0
Unknown Falcon               0              0              0
Unknown Eagle                0              0              0
Unknown Raptor               2              2              2

Total:                     191            279            279
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Observation start time: 08:30:00 
Observation end   time: 17:00:00 
Total observation time: 8.5 hours

Official Counter:        Bill Banks, Scott Kruitbosch, Tom Murray

Observers:        Bill Banks, Charlie Barnard, Dave Zawisha, Frank Mantlik,
                  Ron Pelletier, Tom Murray

Visitors:
Approximately 15 park visitors or volunteers stopped by to chat or inquire
what we were doing. Otherwise it was pro observers only.


Weather:
A cold front featuring waves of heavy rain moved offshore overnight with
the remnants still pushing through New England this morning. Cloud cover
persisted through the morning only to be replaced by additional clouds as
the low tried to unsuccessfully develop precipitation back to the W. Drier
air moved in on a weak high during the afternoon, giving us some fair
weather clouds. The wind was strongest from the departing low, though
mostly only 4-7MPH with an occasional 8-12MPH burst, all from the NE. The
high shifted the wind to the N and slightly NW before the count ended.
Temperatures beat expected highs as we neared 80 with still sticky air. Low
levels were turbulent and faster early in the morning, possibly being why
we peaked in flight then.

Raptor Observations:
We set our all-time OSPR daily record at 107 breaking the previous high of
67 on 09/16/12. We would have broken it last Friday, 09/04/15, when we had
61 in only 3.5 hours but lacked coverage. All 8 BWHA were single birds. We
had a variety of tracks but the most common one was probably nearly due W.
They were at the limit of binocular range once the thermals came up, and we
likely still missed some despite the clouds. There was no perceptible drop
down period. The lunchtime lull was severe. We had several local RTHA,
TUVU, OSPR, PEFA, and BAEA, plus at least 21 BLVU. The counted migrant TUVU
were a group choice based on their height, track, wings and lack of
deviation.

Non-raptor Observations:
Southbound migrants included:
American Black Duck  2
COMMON NIGHTHAWK  2
Chimney Swift  81
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  7
PURPLE MARTIN  1
Tree Swallow  69
Barn Swallow  10
Cedar Waxwing  25

Migrants in the park included:
None because the front was still pushing through overnight. Tomorrow will
be a very different story.

Predictions:
Light and variable somewhat N winds should shift more S or SE. It may be
decent early but probably will be slower overall.
========================================================================
Report submitted by Scott Kruitbosch ([email protected])
Boothe Memorial Park information may be found at:
www.rtpi.org

Perhaps next week will bring us thousands of Broad-winged Hawks and hundreds of other awesome birds of prey as great flight conditions are likely in the next few days. We will be watching the weather and the skies all to continue our work, and Roger Tory Peterson’s passion, in monitoring and protecting our birds while educating the public on why they should, too.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator