Friday, April 30, 2004

April 29, 2004
Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Some four hundred and fifteen years ago in the small Plaza that is now called Plaza Doña Marta, the documents were signed designating Tlacotalpan a pueblo.
Tlacotalpan means "land between sky and water"
The Mexican writer Elena Poniatowska once remarked "When I want to smile, I remember Tlacotalpan; when you pronounce the word Tla-co-tal-pan, it's as though you wash your face and laughter comes in."
There is alot of history here in in Tlacotalpan. Today another small bit of history was added. In the course of the afternoon, thousands of Mississippi kites streamed over the Plaza Doña Marta (6,333 Mississippi kites were counted today), it was during that time (when a group of tourists from Germany wandered through the plaza)) that we passed the 100,000 mark for the number of raptors counted in in 28 consecutive days here at the spring hawk watch.
As I reflect on the events of this month, I indeed feel fortunate to live in this special place and to have been witness to this spring raptor migration phenomenon.
I doubt that there are few spring hawk watch sites that offer this diversity, 17 species of migrating raptor species have been observed. In addition, 8 local resident raptor species were observed; Gray-headed kite, Black vulture, Snail kite, Common black hawk, Great black hawk, Crested caracara, Aplomado Falcon, Roadside hawk.
This adds up to a total of 25 raptor species in 28 days!

Today's Report:
TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)......34

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus).....9

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis).....6,333

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)....1

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus).....5

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi)......3

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus).....835

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni).....33

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius).....1

ML Merlin (Falco columbarius).......0

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).......28

Day Total........7,282
MONTH TOTAL.....101,063
From Tlacotalpan, Veracruz
Good birding
David McCauley

Thursday, April 29, 2004

April 28, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz
Daily report
TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).....21

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus).....4

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis).....9

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus).....1

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi)......4

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus).....153

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)....4

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)....4

ML Merlin (Falco columbarius)......2

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).....28

Day Total....230

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Tuesday April 27, 2004
APPARENTLY THE MIGRATING RAPTORS SENSED THE INCOMING STORM YESTERDAY. Seven twenty-four a.m. winds from the North and rain. Here is the satellite imagery
April 26, 2004
Things slowed down today at the hawk watch , I have a feeling that something is up on the weather front, I wish I had a barometer.
Day's Total 133.
I did not observed one single Mississippi kite today.
One of the local traditions is the making and launching of small hot air ballons, today someone lauched one of these small hot air ballons.
Here are some more photos for the day,
Turkey Vulture
Peregrine Falcon
Thus far on the hawk watch I have spent 190 hours observing with a total of 93,551 raptors counted.
April 25, 2004
Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Mississippi Kites 'streaming'
Broad-winged hawk
Daylight Moon over the hawkwatch
Juvenile Swainson's and a Broad-winged hawk.
Report for the day
TV 202
OS 2
SS 3
CH 3
BW 693
SW 28
AK 3
PG 7

Total for Day......1,956
April 24, 2004
Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

I have to play a bit of catch up today on my entries
Report for the day
TV 353
OS 8
MK 7
SS 1
CH 2
BW 983
SW 9
AK 5
PG 1

Total for Day......1368

Saturday, April 24, 2004

April 23,2004
Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

This was going to be my day off. I headed out to do some digiscoping/birding in the blazing sun, it was nice to get a bit of a break from the hawk watch. I was able to observe 73 species in about 3 hours.
Species of note: rufous-breasted spinetail, green-breasted mango hummingbird (male), barred antshrike, black-cowled oriole, bare-throated tigerheron.
While taking refuge in the shade of a tree, this Northern jacana, jacana spinosa caught my eye and I was able to capture some details. View 1 View2 View3 View4 View5

Once I got back to the house and had a bite of lunch, I walk out onto the porch and note that conditions seem right for raptor movement. So at 2p.m. I move the rocking chair and hawk watch gear out on the porch for a bit of viewing.
It is HOT 35C-95F. 10 km per hour wind from the south. Cloudless skies. At first glance, a few high flying resident black vultures. The sensation of waves of heat hitting my face, followed by the temptation to park the binoulars and take a nice long siesta.
To the southeast I notice a nice push of swallows, (barn swallows to be exact) in this part of the world during migration, swallows and lots of them moving steadily forward can be indicator of impending raptor movement. Within a matter of a minute, I see them, a rapidly moving, HIGH flying group of Mississippi kites (187 on the counter).
In an instant I am no longer tired, time flies and I enter the unique world of raptors in migration!
The rest of the afternoon is filled with some of the best views of the hawk watch thus far. 4.5 hours 3,299 raptors.
Mississippi kites (high kettle)
Broad-winged hawk
Swainson's hawk.
The highlight of the afternoon a fairly low flying female hook-billed kite!
Photo of Broad-winged hawk and Swainson's hawk soaring over Tlacotalpan
A slow moving line of primarily Mississippi kites.
Todays report:

TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura).....10

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus).....3

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)......2,650

HK Hook-billed Kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus).....1

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus).....2

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)....2

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi).....9

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)......566

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)....42

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius).....5

ML Merlin (Falco columbarius).....1

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)......8
DAY TOTAL .......3,299

MONTH TOTAL......90,094

So long from Plaza Doña Marta, I'm the sunburned one, feelin good!
David McCauley

Friday, April 23, 2004

Collage of flight profiles of the Broad-winged hawk. There is nothing static about a Broad-winged hawk in flight, the flight profile is constantly changing. I have created a collage showing different forms of flight of the Broad-winged hawk.
Please feel free to copy the collage, I hope that it will be helpful.
I am taking a break from the hawk watch for a day.
David McCauley

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I found this information on the Bio One site about the wintering migration destinations of the Broad-winged hawk. I found the information quite useful.
David McCauley
Tlacotalpan Veracruz
April 21, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Plaza Doña Marta
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

The day started out crystal clear, fortunately we got a few clouds and some high haze that provided some eye relief for the spotting and counting of raptors.
We had four brown pelicans pass overhead, we don't see that many brown pelicans here as they tend to cling to the coast which is about nine miles away.
We had some kids drop by after school who wanted to observe, unfortunately I don't have but three binoculars for visitors and only one of them works. I guess I need to make a request to Birder's Exchange for some used binoculars.
It is a good thing if a kids interest can be sparked as to the ins and outs of the hawk watch.
The sight of the day was 2 Zone-tailed hawks. I was able to snap a quick picture of one of the Zone-tailed hawks in glide.
Todays Report:

TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)....22

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus)........20

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis).....1,964

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)........1

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)....3

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi)....1

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)....726

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)....37

ZT Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotus)....2

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)......7

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus).....1

DAY TOTAL........2,785
MONTH TOTAL....86,474

Eyes to the sky.
David McCauley
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

April 20, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch

Tlacotalpan Veracruz
I was going to go to Veracruz today, but when I notice that the winds were coming from the south I decided to postpone my trip and see what the day had to offer in terms of raptor migration. Southerly winds in the a.m. are not the norm. The morning and early afternoon were pretty slow but at 4:30 p.m. things changed in 15 minutes 3,000+ Mississippi kites came over the plaza.
It is a tremendous rush to see a line sreaming overhead, at times the Mississippi kites were 20 abreast. I was able to get a picture of a small kettle at the very end of the push.
Basically clear skies.

Toaday's Report:
Today+ (total for the month)

TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)...60....(434)

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus)...5.....(255)

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)...3,168...(13,860)

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)...0.....(62)

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi)...0...(59)

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)....325....(67,868)

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni)..2...(633)

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)....1....(139)

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)..0...(28)
TOTALS: Day....3,562
MONTH 83,689

Good birding.

David McCauley
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

April 19, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch

Plaza Doña Marta

Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Here in Tlacotalpan the tradition remains of the walking funeral procession, between 10-11:00a.m. a funeral procession passed by the Plaza Doña Marta, site of the hawk watch.

Two days ago I made a post with photo "Sharp-shinned or Cooper's?" A sequence of photos that I had taken in the plaza of a low flying raptor.

Thanks to Van, (a keen observer from Colorado who responed to my post on Bird forum) who firmly stated it is neither a Sharp-shinned or Cooper's but rather something tropical, perhaps a Roadside hawk or a hooked-billed kite.
Well...........faux pas on my part and thanks for the correction Van.
After checking the few photos that I have of the Roadside hawk in flight, (the Roadside hawk-Buteo magnirostris is very common here) I am sure that what I observed was a Roadside hawk. A big serving of "humble pie" here today!
I have been birding rather intensively for the past six years in Mexico, almost everyday I learn something new. I supose that is why I enjoy this so much.
Perhaps this photo will give you an idea of what I am dealing with while spotting and counting.
I wanted to post a couple of photos of the regulars at the hawk watch, Black Vultures. The "Tlacotalpan garbage dump gang" (black vultures) are generally the first to "get lift" in the morning and the last down in the late afternoon. They spend the day criscrossing the sky and are most definitely 'master's' at finding and soaring in thermals. In part I believe that one of the reasons that a fair amounts of raptors pass over Tlacotalpan is the very presence of Black Vulture, which are clear indicators of active thermals. Resident black vulture diva CORA GYPS
Report: Things slowed down a bit today with 1,002 raptors being counted. Almost equal amouts of Mississippi kites (491) and Broad-winged hawks (489)
Todays total....1002
Total for the Month............80,127

Monday, April 19, 2004

April 18, 2004
Thanks to those who e-mailed and responded yesterday, it is nice to hear from folks.<br> I just spotted our wintering peregrine falcon perched on the telecommunications tower here in Tlacotalpan, I am sure that it will be leaving shortly, I will miss it when it migrates but all of you up north will be enjoying will be enjoying your peregrine falcons. I noticed this winter on several occasions that our peregrine falcon is a bit of a gourmet. With good scoped views I was able to clearly view the peregine plucking a grebe, (either least or pied-billed) the lobed toes of the grebe being visible and unmistakable. I thought this to be a bit curious as I have always seen them munching on rock doves in the past.
This past fall while leading two birding guests, we witnessed a "kill" of a peregrine falcon and the victim was of all things a cattle egret. It was pretty impressive. I will try to make some notes next year as to peregrine snacks of choice.
As for yesterday's ID question, I went with the juvenile Cooper's hawk pretty much based on this PHOTO.
Note the progressively shorter outer tail feathers on the juvenile Coopers.

As for the hawk watch, clear blue skies and high flying raptors made counting a virtual nightmare. I could have used some help today! I estimate that I probably missed 50% or more.

Today's numbers:
TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 15

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus) 7

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) 962

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 1

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 4

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi) 1

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) 684

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) 6

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 2


Total for the Month of April 79,125

Good birding,
David McCauley
Tlacotalpan, Veracruz

Sunday, April 18, 2004

April 17, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch 2004

HELLO! Is anyone reading this weblog or am I just mumbling to myself?
There is a space for comments on the far left side at the end of each post. I would appreciate hearing from you!
Blue skies are a raptor observers challenge(cloudless skies can kick your butt). Spend 9 hours scanning the blue for raptors and you will see what I mean!
Today was a fairly good day at the hawk watch number wise with 3,991migrating raptors tallied.
Late in the afternoon a cloud of rock doves flies over the plaza, their flight is not the normal flowing pattern of the rock pigeon. These guys are agitated.
I start looking for the source and spot a low flying accipiter, grab the digital camera (which I hand hold to the eyepiece of my binocular) and start taking some pics. This is not the easiest thing to do, but I am getting better at it. I was able to get about nine or ten pics of the juvenile accipiter. At first glance the pictures are not very sharp but they are useful for those who want to learn flight ID's for raptors.When you are observing raptors in flight most of the time all that you are dealing with is "shape" and these "shapes can change dramatically depending on what they are doing be it gliding, soaring or stooping.
In a time span of 40 seconds you can see the difference in the views of the same accipiter. This PHOTO COLLAGE represents the classic field challenge of IS IT A COOPER'S OR A SHARP-SHINNED HAWK?
Weigh in with your pick in the comment box, I will tell you later what I think it is.

Report for the 17th of April

TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 6

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus) 14

ST Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus) 0

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) 1,794

HK Hook-billed Kite (Chondrohierax uncinatus) 0

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 1

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 2

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi) 2

RS Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) 0

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) 2,157

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) 7

ZT Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotus) 0

RT Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) 0

RH Roadside Hawk (Buteo magnirostris) 0

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 4

ML Merlin (Falco columbarius) 1

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 3

CC Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) 0

GE Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) 0

DAY TOTAL ............3,991

MONTH TOTAL...............77,444

Saturday, April 17, 2004

April 16, 2004
Spring Hawk Watch
Tlacotalpan Veracruz
Mississippi kites were the order of the day. 3, 299 counted
Fifteen days into the count and I have counted 73,453 migrating raptors.
We had a vistor to the hawk watch site today. I noticed something sitting on the peak of a red tiled roof, to my surprise a migrating common night hawk. It stayed on the roof until things warmed up and flew away, it looked exhausted.
Here is a photo of 151 Mississippi kites in a kettle above the Plaza Doña Marta (I placed a small faded yellow dot on each kite as I counted them, the saltine cracker crumb was not counted! :)
Rafael Aguilera, Tlacotalpan painter .
TV Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) 82

OS Osprey (Pandion haliaeetus) 16

NH Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) 1

MK Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) 3,299

SS Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) 3

CH Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperi) 3

BW Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) 1,265

SW Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) 25

AK American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) 5

PG Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) 1


Tools of the hawk watch

Friday, April 16, 2004

Spring hawk watch 2004
Plaza Doña Marta ("Martha" on the plaque in the plaza is a misspell)
April 15, 2004
Tlacotalpan, Veracruz
I spent a total of ten hours observing today. Most of the day the skies were crystal clear. Clear skies will put the skills of any any observer to the test, unless you spot the raptor with binoculars or a scope directly they may very well pass by undetected/uncounted.
Last year was my first time to conduct a hawk watch. As I compare last years count here in Tlacotalpan with this years the biggest difference is that I am scanning the skies more thus finding more. Most of the time I am counting by myself and that is a definite limitation.
I am not counting all the migrating raptors, however I am seeing enough to give an idea as to general movements.
Even at the the "Everest" of all hawk watches, River of Raptors Veracruz which is the fall count in Cardel and Chichicaxtle (where five to six million raptors are counted each season) not everything gets counted, and this is a team of dedicated and experienced counters.
I have to thank Tim Smart for teaching me a few things about spotting and ID. Tim is an excellent counter and his knowledge of raptors is quite complete. One of the things that I recall about Tim in Cardel is the near relentless form in which he is constantly searching the skies.
For those new to a hawk watch one of the most overheard comments is "I don't see anything", many times the problem here is that the binoculars are not pre-focused on a distant part of the sky. As a spotting tip, if you have a cloud with some detail, focus on it. Once focused you should be able to scan the sky and pick up many of the movements of raptors. When the skies are clear and your last focus was the low flying Monarch butterfly, when you get back to searching for raptors you can be certain that you won't see much more than another butterfly.
Today's count
Turkey Vulture 16
Osprey 38
Mississippi Kite 2,494
Northern harrier 1
Sharp-shinned hawk 2
Cooper's hawk 2
Broad-winged hawks 3,993
Swainson's hawk 31
American kestrel 12
Peregrine falcon 1

Non-raptor sightings 26 species include; wood storks, green-breastedmango (hummingbird), roseate spoonbill, blue-gray tanager, tropical kingbird, great-tailed grackle
Good birding all, from my porch rocking chair in Tlacotalpan.
David McCauley

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

April 14, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch 2004
Plaza Doña Marta
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Today we had a break in the weather after three days of strong winds and rain.
Temperature 27C (80F) at 10:00 a.m. and remained the same until 19:00.
Overcast most of the day, with light wind from the North 11 km per hour.
The first raptor observed today, 11:49 a.m. and was a Black Vulture.
There were nice movements of Mississippi kites with 698 counted today.
Mississippi Kites in glide
Four peregrine falcons were counted today. I has able to get a flight profile pic of a peregrine today.
Today's report:
Turkey vulture 11
Ospery 23
Mississippi kite 698
Sharp-shinned hawk 7
Cooper's hawk 2
Broad-winged hawks 395
Swainson's hawk 4
American kestrel 7
Merlin 1
Peregrine falcon 4


The last raptor counted today was a Swainson's hawk.
April 13, 2004
Spring hawk watch 2004
Tlacotalpan Veracruz
Weather not condusive to raptor migration. Overcast, rain and windy with a high temp of 23C-74F. I spent two hours in the a.m. at the plaza.
Raptor total 8 (1 Osprey and 7 Turkey vultures)
Due to the weather I took a break from the hawk watch to go out into the field and do some birding/digiscoping (Digiscoping is where you combine a digital camera with a spotting scope to take pictures)
My "digiscoping outfit is pretty simple I use a Sony Mavica 250CD camera handheld to the eyepiece of my Nikon 80 spotting scope.
Here are some of the results of the digiscoping system:
I spent 3 and a half hours in the field and was able to observe 70 species. The highlight of the day was a view (I was unable to get a picture) of a Western tanager (male). In my six years of birding here in Tlacotalpan this is my first sighting of Western tanager.
Here are five of the species that I was able to digiscope today:
Roadside hawk buteo magnirostris griseocaudaview one view two view three

Vermilion flycatcher (Male)
Scissor-tailed flycatcher Tyrannus forficatus
Mangrove swallow (this little swallow was perched on a fencepost and the background is color of the house behind it)
The HIGH POINT of my digiscoping day was this TENNESSEE WARBLER (male) Vermivora peregrina
view one view two
Well, you get and idea of my birding excursion for the day. I was nice to take a little break from the hawk watch but I am anxious to see what tomorrow will bring, hopefully the weather will improve.
David McCauley
April 12, 2004

Plaza Doña Marta
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Overcast , classic veracruz "Norte" with fairly strong winds from the north all day.

Raptors counted 0.
Highlight of the day: ANTS TAKE CENTER STAGE Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a couple of feathers moving up the wall. (No, I had not been hitting the tequila!) This small group of ants had latched on to these feathers and were taking them to their lair.

Monday, April 12, 2004

April 11, 2004
Plaza Doña Marta
Tlacotalpan Veracruz

Dawn broke with 35 km p/hr winds from the south, at 9:00 the temp was 28 C 82F rising to a high of 35 C (95F) by 14:00. Altocumulus clouds overhead, which dissapeared leaving the sky cloudless for the remainder of the day.
It was a slow day for raptor movement. I was able to get photos of OSPREY and SWAINSON's HAWK
Totals for the day:
Turkey Vulture 5
Osprey 8
Cooper's hawk 1
Broad-winged hawk 116
Swainson's hawk 11
American Kestrel 4

Day Total 145
Total for the month 61,003

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Report on the Spring hawk watch 2004 Tlacotalpan Veracruz
Plaza Dona Marta
Tlacotalpan Veracruz
April 10, 2004

This is my second year conducting the spring hawk watch here in Tlacotalpan. One of the most frequent question that am asked is WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?
When I am sitting on the porch of the house alone, 90+ degrees, 95% humidity , hardly a breeze ,zero raptor movement, scanning the scorching hazy blue sky, "Why do you do this?" seems like a perfectly valid question. On last years count with no tally board or explanation of what I was doing, I am sure that many of the locals thought "Well, it looks as though the gringo has lost his mind completely", they were kind though, they would smile and wave as they passed by. I have to admit that at first glance there is something rather "Kafka" about the whole hawk watch scenario.<
OK so back to the "WHY" of the hawk watch. My justification for observing raptors in migration or even birding for that matter is about making a connection.
Let me give you an example, the other day 12:00 p.m. (hotter than the hubs of hades) I am relentlessly bino scanning the nearly cloudless sky and a catch a faint glimpse on the horizon of a swirling "kettle". I spring from my tlacotalpan stlye rocking chair (rocking chairs are great for hawk watches) and grab the scope. I focus in and instantly see that good things are cooking in the distance, a good sized group of migrating broad-winged hawks is about to make an appearance over the small plaza called Dona Marta in Tlacotalpan Veracruz. I make a quick mental check of my data entry sheet, temp. wind direction, make sure that the clicker counter is ready, I step inside the livingroom, sling the digital camera over my neck and am back to the scope. I now can see that there are three independent "kettles" in the same area.
Now this is the moment that I call "raptor anticipation", the adrenaline has kicked in and I am ready. I quickly scan with the binos to the east and I pick up a small (150-200) "kettle". When you are conducting a hawkwatch by your lonesome and you detect multiple "kettles" this is what I refer to as a "situation". I call into the house to my partner of 10 years who is a gifted painter, "Rafa VEN!" Rafael comes quickly out of his studio with binoculars in hand, (you see , the "Rafa VEN!" command is reserved for special raptor movement sightings and is used sparingly.) I point in the direction of the small "kettle" and instruct him to tell me when they "stream" or break into a line as they leave the thermal so I can count them.
With Rafael focused on the movement in the east I return to my first large kettle which is breaking and a line forming headed directly for the Plaza Dona Marta. I make a quick mental note that the approaching line is approx. 15 abreast. I am able to count the first group with individual rapid clicks. The line ends and a see a break of empty sky. A quick glance at the counter 523. I scan back to the horizon and with one kettle counted I discover that a new kettle has formed, I now have three more to deal with.
Note: when "kettles" break or start to "stream" a counter had better be paying attention as raptors in glide don't dawdle. I have timed the movements of a breaking stream if raptors on the distant horizon, from that point until they pass over head 35-45 seconds. Of course there a few hard and fast rules as to raptor movements as winds, temp. can change quickly.
OK back to the task, I am now looking at a fair sized kettle, (in Tlacotalpan Veracruz that means1,500 to 2,000) I quickly jot the last line count 523 on my scratch sheet and reset the counter. As my next "kettle" breaks I note that they are approximately 20 abreast, grouped closely together, as they move out I am carefully watching the movement , each click of the counter represents 20. I am clicking at the rate of about one click per second, when this line ends, I quickly glance at the counter 76, I make a notation 76X20 on the scratch pad. At the end of the hour I will do the math and get a total for the hour. What the 76X20 means is that in 76 seconds I counted 1,520 Broad-winged hawks!
The next kettle has already broken and is almost over the house! Quick. Regroup and get the count!................... Perhaps this will give you an idea of a good "push " of raptors at a hawk watch and counting them. On this day at one moment I counted 7 active "kettles" at one time in the sky. The end result this day, 90 minutes, 11,000+ raptors. There were moments where these lines or streams kettled again directly over the plaza, filling the sky with thousands of swirling Broad-winged hawks! So this is why I observe raptors. I think that is one of nature's most awesome spectacles.

Results for April 10th 2004
Turkey Vulture 86
Osprey 12
Mississippi Kites 101
Sharp-shinned hawk 8
Cooper's Hawk 3
Broad-winged hawk 2,300
Swainson's hawk 407
American Kestrel 13

Resident Crested Caracara passing over the plaza
turf dispute between social flycatcher and grey-breasted martin

Saturday, April 10, 2004

THE PICTURE SAYS IT ALL! click to see photo
April 9, 2004 near perfect hawk watch conditions today high temp of 31C-84F and a consistent gentle breeze for most of the day.
Between 12:00-13:00 the sky filled with Broad-winged hawks, At one time I could observe 6 "kettles" at the same time. I counted the major streams but lost some of the smaller groups.
The hour count for Broad-winged hawks was 8,524.
the afternoon was nice with breeze and a good raptor mix riding the thermals over Plaza Dona Marta and no big hurry. In the afternoon raptors can fly in quite low making for some great views. We got a visit from a resident Roadside hawk looking a bit tattered
11 migrating raptors observed today plus 4 resident species for a total of 15 species observed.
Non-raptor species observed (21).
Around 11:00a.m. hundreds of thousands of migrating dragonflies passed by in a five minute period.

Daily Total 13,792 Total for the Month of April 57,928

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Today, April 8 wa s good solid raptor viewing day. 12 migrating raptor species were observed today.
Turkey vulture 21
Osprey 20
Mississippi kite 232
Swallow-tailed kite 1
Sharp-shinned hawk 4
Cooper's hawk 4
Red-shouldered hawk 1
Broad-winged hawk 3,729
Swainson's hawk 5
American kestrel19
Merlin 2
Peregrine falcon 3
Raptor total for April 8, 2004......4,041

Seven days into the count and I have counted 44,136 raptors. to see a breakdown:


Tlacotalpan Spring Hawk Watch

April 7, 2004

A bit of a slow down today from previous days counts. Weather was a big factor, with winds kicking up from the north from 12:00-17:00 with speeds from 15-35 km p/hr.
Today's total count 1,647 consisting mainly of Broad-winged hawks.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Spring Hawk Watch 2004

April 6, 2004 Tlacotalpan Veracruz
I started out the day with a four day total of 35,583 since I began counting on the 2nd of April.
We had 15km p/hr winds from the south for most of the day with a high temp of 34C or 94F.
I began counting at 9:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Here are the raptor counts for the day:
Turkey vulture 32
Osprey 22
Mississippi kites 42
Northern harrier 3
Sharp-shinned hawk 7
Cooper's hawk 6
Broad-winged hawks 2,739
Swainson's hawks 2
American kestrel 11
Peregrine falcon1
TOTAL 2,864 for the day.

A total of 15 raptor species were seen, one unidentified.
21 non raptor species were observed.

Monday, April 05, 2004

About as good as it gets. Tlacotalpan hawkwatch "sizzled" today(CLICK TO VIEW PHOTO. The day began with the filming of a new Mexican soap opera in Plaza Dona Marta. The rest of the day was good solid raptor movement. 8 species of raptors moved through today. Broad-winged hawks were by far the most abundant (13,875) Here is a pic of one "stream" of Broad-winged hawks, I counted over 1,500 in this one group. I WAS ABLE TO GET SOME PICS of what I believe to be a low flying juvie Cooper's hawk being pursued by some other birds.
Toward the end of the day's hawk watch, I noticed these girls playing with their pet racoon in the plaza. they came over to read the tally boad and I was able to get a pic
April 4 was a great day for a hawkwatch here in Tlacotalpan Veracruz.
I observed a total of 13 raptor species 10 of which were migrating. I made a rather rustic tally board to record the previous days totals as well as the totals for the season. I focused on the nine most observed species.
Today I observed some nice movements of mississippi kites and was able to digiscope several of their flight postures.
There was some nice pushes of Broad-winged hawks in the a.m. To give you a sense of the numbers, I have taken this digital photo of the migrating broadwings and enlarged it to place a small yellow dot over each broad-wing hawk. The photo shows what Malcom Hodges aptly refers to as "sky pepper" There are over 500 broad-winged hawks in this photo. in this particular stream/kettle I counted over 2,000 broad-winged hawks in a matter of 20 minutes!
I got a bit of help with the hawkwatch yesterday from Jonathan and Jose, two local kids who have displayed an early interest in raptors migration. They helped for a couple of hours spotting and entering data.

All said and done and great day, 9,725 raptors counted for the day. Here is the breakdown:
Turkey Vulture 9
Osprey 15
Mississippi Kites 391
Sharp-shinned hawks 5
Cooper's Hawks 6
Broad-winged hawks 9,251
Swainson's hawks 31
American kestrel 10
Peregrine falcon 1
Unidentified 6
Total count as of April 2nd........21,605

Friday, April 02, 2004

On April 1st I launched the second year of the Spring Hawk watch here in Tlacotalpan. This year by means of my weblog I hope to be able to share this with more people. Here is the info on the Hawk watch for April 2nd.

23C rising to a high of 27C
Slightly overcast, hazy.
Afternoon winds 12-14 km per hour from N

A geat observation day with a nice mix of raptors.
Great concentrations of broad-winged hawks in the a.m.
over 8,000 from 9:30-12:00p.m.
I spotted one low flying resident yellow headed savannah vulture.

Turkey Vulture 21

Osprey 18

Mississippi kite 57

Northern Harrier 3

Sharp-shinned hawk 5

Cooper's Hawk 6

Broad-winged hawk 9,675

Swainson's hawk 8

American kestrel 8

Merlin 1

Peregrine falcon 3

Unidentified raptors 316

DAY TOTAL 10,121

23 other bird species observed. House sparrow, rock pigeon, scissor tailed flycatcher, vermilion flycatcher, great kiskadee, tropical kingbird, great egret, white ibis, cattle egret, golden-fronted woodpecker, magnificent frigatebird, gray-breasted martin, northern rough-winged swallow, neotropic cormorant, barn swallow, white-collared swift, american white pelicans (762) anhinga (26) wood stork (8) great-tailed grackle, crested caracara, least sandpiper, laughing gull