High and mighty

My car is being very naughty at the moment. Recently it had to be towed and cost a fortune to repair, now the gas tank is leaking from the top and it will cost another fortune to fix. I used to be a mechanic and gas tanks don’t usually leak unless wacked by something so I’ll just put it down to the incredibly poor quality of just about everything manufactured these days (except for Swarovski bins, of course). Those of you who have been lucky enough to ride in the ‘Squat Pig’ (my pet name for the car)will be surprised to know of its ills as you know how I wrap it in cotton wool! This preamble is present by way of informing you that I was late getting to the pits today.

After last Friday and the hawk-fest (see previous post) I had Saturday off but yesterday I had a walk around the pits with Alain Bessette (of Gaspacho Films fame). There were a few warblers around and seven Broad-winged Hawks went over but it was cool and quiet and there was not a lot to inspire (sorry Alain), sometimes it’s like that. Today it was different.

Heavy cloud, similar to that of Friday, hinted that hawks would move but the soccer pitch woods was hopping with warblers as I passed and so I opted for the woods first. This autumn has been the best warbler time at the pits that I can remember in terms of abundance and variety and I was not at all disappointed by my short walk – especially as I found five Swainson’s Thrushes in there too. As I exited the woods, a casual glance skywards revealed dots overhead, game on. As I walked into the pits proper I could see another birder present, high in the sky behind him were 58 Broad-winged Hawks in a kettle.

The birder turned out to be Michel Juteau and for the next couple of hours we watched the tremendous passage of Broad-winged Hawks as they passed either side of us. The broad-wings were not the only hawks moving and below is my count: Broad-winged Hawk 359; Bald Eagle 3; Red-shouldered Hawk 9; Turkey Vulture 15; Red-tailed Hawk 9; Sharp-shinned Hawk 2; Cooper’s Hawk 3; Osprey 3. Two sets of bins scanning certainly helped and thanks to Michel , I’m sure you enjoyed it as much as I did. At 11.25 I also picked up a ‘different’ hawk, high and hard to get in the scope and camera lens but I have my suspicions. I also got a first-hand account from Michel of the Northern Mockingbird from 8-June this year, a new species for the site and a bird I looked for extensively with no luck.

As it got brighter the hawk passage dried up but Canada Geese were still moving and a gang that dropped into the pits included a Snow Goose. All summer there has been an injured Snow Goose present, hanging out with a lone Canada Goose. The arrival of a fit one had an immediate effect on the resident and it never left its side for the next two hours. Later in the day a Black-crowned Night Heron flew and roosted in the trees by the works buildings. This welcome bird gave me 176 species for the year (out of 178 recorded) at the pits, a new record.

My day total was 60 species and included a White-rumped Sandpiper and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, the latter not bad for mid-September. After the hawks had stopped I went back into the woods and tried to take some photographs. Unfortunately the warblers had to be followed in running shoes to keep up and so below are the best of a truly bad bunch (no really!).

The photos are: White-rumped Sandpiper and one of the Semipalmated Sandpipers it arrived with. Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Northern Parula (on acid I’m sure, it never stopped). Also a juv Cedar Waxing and a mystery bird for you to have a go at – it’s the one with its bottom in the air.

IMG_3319 IMG_3332 IMG_3345 IMG_3356 IMG_3360 IMG_3402 IMG_3405 IMG_3417 IMG_3428 IMG_3493

Here is another shot of the mystery bird if you were puzzling over it – should give you all the clues you need.



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