Piitaistakis-South Livingston Raptor Watch Fall 2009

The South Livingston Raptor Count for the fall migration of 2009 has now begun. First official day of counting began on 25th August 2009. Follow the daily movement of raptors on this blog updated daily by Peter Sherrington. If you enjoy and are inspired by what you are reading, and would consider supporting or joining RMERF, please click on Membership for details.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

December 9 [Day 103] (Valley View site) The temperature reached a high of -13C from a low at 1015 of -16C, which was also the temperature at 1700. Ground winds were mainly SW to NW and occasionally NE gusting to 50 km/h and ridge winds were mainly strong WNW. Cloud cover was 20-90% altocumulus, cirrostratus, cirrus and lenticular and a spectacular sunset proved a fitting end to the fall 2009 count. No migrant raptors were seen but an adult resident Golden Eagle displayed briefly above the Livingstone ridge at 1044 and probably the same bird glided high to the north above the valley at 1617. 7 hours (1142.8) TOTAL 0 (7145)
December summary This is only the second year that the count has extended into December, the other being in 2007: inclement weather precluded December counts in 2006 and 2008. Seven days were spent in the field (60 hours) with December 5 and 6 lost to poor weather and 48 migrant raptors were counted compared to 78 in 2007. The count comprised (with 2007 count in parenthesis) 36 Bald Eagles (69), 1 Red-tailed Hawk (0), 4 Rough-legged Hawks (4) and 7 Golden Eagles (3). Two migrant Northern Goshawks occurred in 2007 but the species was not recorded in December this year.

FINAL COUNT, AUGUST 25 TO DECEMBER 9 (variance from 2006-8 average in parentheses)

DAYS 103 (+10.8%)
HOURS 1142.8 (+15.16%)

OSPREY (OSPR) 49 (+167%) New high count
BALD EAGLE (BAEA) 684 (+24.5%)
NORTHERN HARRIER (NOHA) 100 (+65.7%) New high count
COOPER’S HAWK (COHA) 302 (+40.2%) New high count
Unidentified Accipiter (UA) 35 (-34.8%)
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (BWHA) 45 (+214%) New high count
SWAINSON’S HAWK (SWHA) 7 (+250%) New high count
FERRUGINOUS HAWK (FEHA) 10 (+400%) New high count
Unidentified Buteo (UB) 7 (+10.5%)
GOLDEN EAGLE (GOEA) 4293 (-14.45%)
Unidentified eagle (UE) 4 (-76%)
AMERICAN KESTREL (AMKE) 65 (-122%) New high count
MERLIN (MERL) 29 (-16.3%)
GYRFALCON (GYRF) 10 (+66.7%) New high count
PEREGRINE FALCON (PEFA) 48 (+63.6%) New high count
Unidentified Falco (UF) 3 (+12.5%)
Unidentified raptor (UU) 11 (-8.3%)

TOTAL 7145 (-9.72%)

Principal Observers: Peter Sherrington (95 days), Bill Wilson (4 days), Vance Mattson (3 days) and Doug and Teresa Dolman (1 day). The Principal Observers were skillfully assisted by Keith McClary (51 days), Phil Nicholas (41 days), Denise Coccioloni-Amatto (29 days), Nel Van Kamer (9 days), David Thomas (9 days), Dawn Hall (9 days), Doug and Teresa Dolman (6 days), Pat Lucas (5 Days), Peter Sherrington (3 days), Ben Johnson (2 days), Karole Michalsky (2 days), Angelo Mincone (2 days), Dominic Mincone (2 days), Patricia Wagenaar (2 days), Nancy and Terry Waters (2 days), John and Donna Dubbelboer (1 day), Brenda Kofell (1 day), Marian Mincone (1 day), Mark Sherrington (1 day), Gareth Thompson (1 day) Heinz and Marilyn Unger (1 day), Paul Vandervelde (1 days) and Michael Woertman (1 day).

Acknowledgements: To the Board, members and supporters of the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation for their continuing financial and material support, and to members of the Crowsnest Conservation Society for their support and many contributions to the success of the project. To the many people who invited me for meals and hospitality during the season, to Nel Van Kamer who cooked prepared meals for me and saved me hours of cooking time, and to all of the above for their support, friendship and companionship during what was a long and often arduous field season.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December 8 [Day 102] (Valley View site) The temperature was again -29C at 0800 and rose to a relatively pleasant -14C between 1300 and 1430 before falling to -20C at 1700. Fortunately ground winds were light varying from NE to SW and ridge and upper winds were NE moderate to light to 1430 when they backed to NNW. It was cloudless to 0900 after which cumulus and cirrus cloud developed reaching 90% at 1200 which gradually thinned becoming cloudless again after 1600. Very light snow fell between 1140 and 1300 and low cumulus enveloped part of the Livingstone Range between 1200 and 1430. The only migrant raptors were an adult Bald Eagle flying south from Bluff Mountain at 1351 and another adult Bald Eagle flapping south along the Livingstone ridge at 1511. A single American Tree Sparrow at 1253 was the 107th bird species recorded this season, and single Northern Shrike and Townsend’s Solitaire furnished latest records for the site. 9.75 hours (1135.8 hours) BAEA 2 (684) TOTAL 2 (7145)

Monday, December 7, 2009

December 7 [Day 101] (Valley View site) It was the coldest day of the season with a temperature high of -18C from 1200 to 1420 from a low of -29C and by 1700 it was down to -25C again. Ground winds were NE to NNE gusting to 15 km/h until 1100 after which they mercifully became light SW to W, and ridge winds appeared to be light or moderate NE to N all day. Skies were essentially cloudless all day with only occasional traces of ephemeral cumulus cloud in the afternoon. A total of 9 raptors migrated between 1136 and 1404 comprising 7 Bald Eagles (6 adults and 1 subadult), 1 adult intermediate morph “Harlan’s” Red-tailed Hawk and a juvenile Golden Eagle. The Harlan’s Hawk is the first ever December record for a Red-tailed Hawk on a RMERF count and was the first at the site since November 4, and the Golden Eagle was the latest ever recorded at this site. With the exception of one adult Bald Eagle seen over the Livingstone ridge, all the birds moved south over Bluff Mountain to the west of the observation site. A single Townsend’s Solitaire seen on a couple of occasions was the latest ever recorded on a count here. 9.75 hours (1126) BAEA 7 (682), RTHA 1 (195), GOEA 1 (4293) TOTAL 9 (7143)
December 5 & 6 No observation. Cold, north winds, snow and ridges obscured all weekend. On December 5 at 1437, however, David McIntyre observed an adult Golden Eagle flying south over his house on the North Burmis Road immediately east of south Livingstone Range ridge. The bird had blue patagial tags on both wings with white numbers which could not be read because of the conditions and is probably a bird marked by Rob Domenech of the Raptor View Research Institute in Montana. It was obviously a migrant so I have added it to the count.

Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4 [Day 100] (Valley View site) The temperature was -7C until 1000 when it rose to -6C, ground winds were NW to W gusting to 50 km/h and ridge winds were moderate to strong changing from WSW to W to WNW between 1720 and 0900. Cloud cover started at 10% altocumulus, but quickly increased and thickened to 100% stratus after 1030 when an arctic cold front moved through bringing north winds gusting to 50 km/h, snow and obscuring most of the ridges by 1100. Taking heed of a winter storm warning I left at 1115. No migrant raptors were seen so the Bald Eagle recorded yesterday at 1401 was the last to move south ahead of the approaching arctic front. The storm is forecast to persist throughout the weekend so I plan to shut the count down for a couple of days and resume it for one or two more days when it finally clears again. 4 hours (116.3) No migrant raptors.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 3 [Day 99] (Valley View site) The temperature regime was similar to yesterday’s with a low of -18C rising to -5C between 1300 and 1530 and falling to -7C at 1700. Ground winds were variable gusting up to 15 km/h and ridge winds appeared to be moderate WNW changing to NW to N after 1400, while the high upper flow was N all day. Cloud cover was thin cirrostratus and altostratus 20-50% in the morning gradually increasing to 100% after 1500. Raptor movement started with a juvenile Bald Eagle flapping low to the south above the valley at 0813, followed some time after by 5 adult Bald Eagles between 1028 and 1127. There was a brief high movement along the Livingstone ridge between 1346 and 1401 involving 3 adult Golden Eagles and 2 adult Bald Eagles and that was it for the day. A Northern Shrike at 1620 was a first December record for the site. 9.92 hours (1112.3) BAEA 8 (675), GOEA 3 (4291) TOTAL 11 (7133)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 2 [Day 98] (Valley View site) It was the second coldest day of the season with a morning low of -18C and the temperature reaching -5C at 1400 but falling again to -15C at 1820. It was cloudless all day with traces of cumulus cloud between 1000 and 1530, and it was mainly calm both in the valley and at ridge level. Raptor movement again started early with a Bald Eagle and 2 Rough-legged Hawks flying south between 0804 and 0821, but the next Bald Eagle was not seen until 1143. Movement picked up in the afternoon with 14 more migrants peaking at 6 between 1400 and 1500 which included 4 Bald Eagles flying south together at 1420. The last of the day’s 18 migrants were 2 Bald Eagles flapping low to the south at 1640. The flight comprised 14 Bald Eagles (10 adults, 3 subadults, 1 juvenile), 2 light morph Rough-legged Hawks and 2 adult Golden Eagles. Because of the calm conditions all birds flapped extensively and the day’s first Golden Eagle at 1143 soared for 5 minutes before finally flapping and gliding to the south along the Livingstone ridge. A Great Horned Owl singing at 1702 was the first owl species detected during a count in December. 10 hours (1102.4) BAEA 14 (667), RLHA 2 (85), GOEA 2 (4288) TOTAL 18 (7122)