Monday, September 26, 2005

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Raptors in flight......poetry in motion.
Today was one of those days that I live for.
Over the past six years the last weeks of September and the first two weeks of October I travel to the northwest of the Port of Veracruz to Cardel/Chichicaxtle and Paso de Ovejas to observe the raptor migrations.
This year I decided to stay put here in Tlacotalpan and surrounding areas (55 miles to the south of Veracruz) and see if I could sort out the hawk migration as it passes through the vast tropical wetlands of central Veracruz.
For the past 20 days I have been going different spots along the the road between Tlacotalpan and Cosamaloapan (see map)
Up until Sunday Sept. 25th, I have made observations at 5 different locations and the results have been rather lackluster (by Veracruz standards). I did see nice movements of Mississippi Kites and the beginnings of the Broad-winged migration.
On saturday I was here in Tlacotalpan and not able to get out for the observation.
Saturday evening a friend here asked me if I had seen the hawks that came by. I started to ask some questions and he told me that he had seen several large groups come by. My curiosity was piqued.
I got up early on Sunday and decided to spend the bulk of the day observing right here in Tlacotalpan.
I walk 2 blocks from my house to the Hotel Reforma and walk up 4 flights of stairs to the rooftop. Here are some views View 1 View2 View3 View4
My first raptor sighting of the day was a resident Bat falcon perched on the radio atena atop the municipal building.Image hosted by
I watched with a keen fascination as the Bat falcon flew out from its perch 5 times in search of food. The bat falcons aerial abilities are awesome!
I expected to see the bat falcon come back with a swallow, to my surprise with each return to the perch it had captured a dragonfly. I knew that dragonflies were the mainstay for Missippi Kites but I had never seen a bat falcon "chow down" on dragonflies before.
I got settled down in my plastic chair (in the only patch of shade that I could find on the rooftop) and I scanned the sky from 9a.m. until 12:30.
I saw some small groups of "early lift" Broad-winged hawks in addition, groups of migrating anhinga, a Zone-tailed hawk, 10 Osprey, a resident Aplomado falcon, and several Lesser, Yellow-headed Savannah vultures (residents), a high flying female Snail kite and 1 White-tailed Kite.
From 9am until 12:30 p.m., I observed around 300 migrating raptors (274 BW)
At 12:30 I left the (then shadeless rooftop of the hotel) and headed two blocks away to my house located in front of plaza Doña Marta,
(for those of you who follow my ramblings here on the weblog, you will recognize Plaza Doña Marta as the home for my spring hawkwatch (114,000+ counted this year during the month of April)
OK, I rush home (I always rush when there are raptors in movement .....LOL!) get my self a nice cold coke and hunker down in the shade of that big tree you see in the photo of Plaza Doña Marta.
At approximately 12:55 I come across a forming "kettle" of Broad-winged hawks, I do a quick scan and see that this forming "kettle" is being fed by a massive line of Broad-winged hawks with a few Anhinga thrown in. The "kettle" that I had just spotted swells into a swirling mass of Broad-winged hawks!
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In order to count the hawks in the field of view of my binocular I put the image in Photshop and blow it up 300 percent there I place a yellow dot on each hawk. SEE PHOTO**Note on the photos: most of the above photos where taken using a technique called "binoscoping" I hand hold my digital camera (Sony Mavica 250CD to the eyepiece of my 8X42 binocular) its not an easy trick , and the results are far from crystal clear, but it gives you and idea as to what I am seeing.

Over the next 10 minutes, I count 36,800 Broad-winged hawks. (For those of you with some counting experience, the breadth (wingtip to wingtip) of the "line" or "stream" as the leave the "kettle" ranged from 20 to 200, I estimated an average of 75 to be on the conservative side. I registered 492 clicks in an 8 to 10 min. period.
491 X 75 = 36,825 This first big push (36,800+) was followed by four smaller "pushes" (10,338 -- 9,700--1,250--600), 58,688 raptors counted between 12:55 p.m and 14:00 !

Here is a summary of my observations for the day:
9:00a.m to 15:30 observation time

Broad-winged hawks....58, 962

Swainson´s hawks......2

Mississippi kites....6

Osprey ....10

Turkey Vultures.......14

Cooper´s hawk......3

Sharp-shinned hawk.....2


Peregrine falcon......2

American kestrel.....1

Northern harrier....1

Zone-tailed hawk....1

Total .......59,005

Well, thats it for the moment, I hope that I was able to communicate adequeately some of the hawkwatch from Tlacotalpan.

I want to add a special note of appreciation to Patty Waites Beasley and Crew of the Corpus Cristi hawkwatch....I appreciate all of your time and are my closest point of reference as to migrations from up north. I am glad to hear that you escaped hurricane Rita. Its a bummer that your festival had to be cancelled.

Keep up the good work and eyes to the sky!

And to Libby and Brock....Plaza Doña Marta says "Hi"

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