Sometimes your preconceived ideas regarding the perfect hawk migration conditions are shaken by a dose of reality, today was one of those days.
I approached the pits later than I normally would and was swayed by a flyover warbler to start in the soccer pitch woods. It took a while but I found some warblers – not as many as yesterday but warblers nevertheless. They went as quickly as they arrived and so I moved into the pits (St-Lazare sand pits) proper. Quiet is an adequate was to describe it. The shorebirds have petered out to a few yellowlegs, mostly greater and this despite there being two new Pectoral Sandpipers and a couple of skittering Semipalmated Plovers to enjoy yesterday, it will improve again. I had almost decided to go and view the secret sparrow seed carpet when a cursory scan of the horizon revealed approaching dots.
The weather conditions were: Cool, brisk south-westerly perhaps force 4, maybe 5 using the Beaufort Scale. The sky was a carpet of lowering clouds, each threatening to dump its contents at will and delivering the odd refreshing drizzle just as a taster. The cloud base was approximately1500 feet although I’m guessing. Now I always think of dot attracting weather as being a Simpson’s’ sky – don’t know what I mean, then watch The Simpson’s, the conveyer of all truths, and you will see the sky in the opening credits. That would be blue with fluffy white clouds, almost Orb like (a cryptic musical reference, ignore it but, if you get it I am very impressed).
I counted the dots – four in all. Then I scanned right and found 18 more and realised that Broad-winged Hawks were on the move. Over the next two hours the hawks appeared in bursts, the highest count being 45 in one such burst. I sat and counted and marvelled at the way the hawks just appeared out of the murk. I hypothesised that the birds had set off in better weather and had hit the ridge of wetter weather and were trying to shift around it. Of great interest to me was the fact that the hawks all went east-west instead of the regular north-east to south-west track I associate with autumn hawk flights.
By the time I had left I had logged 223 Broad-winged, 4 Ospreys, 7 Red-shouldered Hawks, 2 Cooper’s Hawks, 1 Sharp-shinned Hawk and 2 Red-tailed Hawks. The Broad-wing count is my best ever in Quebec and I had the pleasure of showing one kettle to a group of visiting birders, their first ever.
Just to go back to the warblers (and vireos). This has been the best autumn at the pits that I have ever had too. Over the past three days I have had the following at the pits: Blue-headed Vireo; Red-eyed Vireo; Northern Parula; Orange-crowned Warbler; Tennessee Warbler; Nashville Warbler; Chestnut-sided Warbler; Magnolia Warbler; Cape May Warbler; Black-throated Blue Warbler; Blackburnian Warbler; Yellow-rumped Warbler; Black-throated Green Warbler; Palm Warbler; Bay-breasted Warbler; Blackpoll Warbler; Black-an-White Warbler, American Redstart and Common Yellowthroat. This month I’m only missing Wilson’s of the ‘regulars’ and Ovenbird although I don’t really count them (and catharus thrushes) as warblers. Incidentally, for those interested in American wood warblers there is a free download here http://blog.press.princeton.edu/2013/07/25/downloadable-warbler-guide-quick-finders/ that is well worth getting.
So Friday 13th September was a lucky day for me, a good birding day. I didn’t add to my pits year list – my personal list is now level with the record at 175 but I found out yesterday that there had been two Black-crowned Night Herons last Monday taking the cumulative pits year list to
177. After hearing of the herons I went to look at dusk last night but no luck but there is still a lot of September to come yet and I remain optimistic.
On my last post I included a photo of a shorebird at St-Lazare sand pits that had me dashing around from the initial point of observation wondering whether I had found a Spotted Redshank (from Europe). Better views allowed me to ID it correctly. Nobody had a go at it, it was on Facebook too where some of the finest birding minds had the opportunity to look at it and nothing, silence. Never mind I suppose I was a bit naughty using the worst photo I had of it, here is a better one, any takers?
Below are a few (better) photos. An adult and immature Cape May Warbler and a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks, all taken today.