Stéphane’s Blog for May 01, 2011

The Pulse of Life!

Migration never ceases to amaze me, even after more than 20 years watching and studying it! It is always full of surprises. It is also, and more importantly, a vibrant breath of life, with birds pulsing through the air.

Today was a fine example of this vital burst: The strong East wind made hundreds of raptors fighting their way to gain ground. There was a constant stream of Sharp-shinned Hawks all morning: not a minute would pass without at least one popping in sight, more often than not accompanied by a few more. We could see 4 or 5 “sharpies” in a loose flock closing on the station, while at the same time, more would be over the bluffs… In total, we detected 216 Sharp-shinned Hawks but I estimated that a good 400 must have moved through today!

It was a hawk festival: besides the small Sharp-shinned Hawks, there were a few “kettles” of Broad-winged Hawks, with the biggest being approximately of 50 individuals, “boiling” in the strong updrafts of the cliffs. Quite a few Red-tailed Hawks were also observed, as well as 2 Red-shouldered and one Rough-legged Hawks. the fast fliers, the falcons, were represented by one Merlin and one American Kestrel. There was also several Northern Harriers, most impressively the 5 individuals “roughly” together at dawn: it is possible that they were in the same roost around or at Cabot Head.

And once again, we saw the 2 young Golden Eagles. They certainly did not look like they were migrating: they soared together over West Bluff or perched on it. One was on a ledge of a small cavity of this massive bluff and it appeared to be looking into it!

With Turkey Vultures and Bald Eagles detected, we had 13 species of birds of prey today.

Among the new species for the season, there was today one Eastern Kingbird, one Solitary Sandpiper, and yesterday, the first Black-throated Green Warbler.

Yesterday, we also got a huge surprise in our nets: we captured a young Northern Shrike! It is the first Northern Shrike ever banded in the spring (ever detected, for that matter)! Northern Shrikes are always seen at the end of the fall season, with the unlucky one or two being captured, but never before had one been banded in the spring!