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the opposite of a hawk watch | this count is one where the hawkwatchers are on the move and hawks -- more or less -- aren't. These "Winter Counts" are now conducted around Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Groundhog Day in two locations with similar open, flat terrain and of approx. the same square miles.
[above: Dead Creek WMA, VT]

Winter Raptor Counts 2003-4: Thanksgiving '03Groundhog Day '04

Interestingly, the Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls were in serious transition earlier in the month. Their numbers dropped off the charts by Christmas.

With a hundred Roughleg sample, there are some interesting changes. Young birds still dominated the counts, but adults have filtered in... especially, dark adults in Northern NY. In addition, a few of the birds list as adults were subadult individuals: retaining some juv. feathers. This Winter, most adult Roughlegs that were down here for the last two years in the low rodent years, stayed well North because the food supply that accounted for their reproductive success last Summer is sustaining them and allowing them to remain nearer to home.

Light Morph Dark Morph
Early December '03 42 (38i, 1a, 3u) 15 (12i, 2a, 1u)
Late December '03 33 (28i, 3a, 2u) 17 (4i, 7a, 6u)

While immature Redtails --basically the same number -- shifted in plumage type toward hooded and away from pale-headed, indicating the August dispersal birds moved out mostly and birds from more northerly populations with western-like features were on the move, South.

Lake Champlain Lake Plain VT
On Monday, December 22, 2003: A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A. Mild and a little windy.
[right: Immature, brown, dark morph Roughleg]

10 Roughlegs [6 light, 4 dark]
15 Redtails [8 adults, 6 immatures, 1 undetermined]
1 American Kestrel

Hawk Food: 442 Snow Buntings, 350 Redpolls [1 flock], 88 A Robins, 43 Horned Larks, 6 Wild Turkeys, 5 Lapland Longspurs, 1 Red-winged Blackbird [female].

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North Country NY
On Wednesday 12/24/03, the thirty-year plus old Christmas Eve Day raptor count west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and surrounding countryside -- was conducted. The overcast conditions, with heavy rain for part of the day, made aging and sexing birds just not possible for a higher percentage than I'd like. Temps were in the 50's however!
[left: Immature, richly colored, light morph Roughleg; right: immature, pale, light morph Roughleg]

40 Rough-legged Hawks [27 light morph;13 dark]
35 Red-tailed Hawks [20 adults; 10 immatures; 5 undetermined]
2 American Kestrels [1 male; 1 female]
1 Northern Harrier [1 immature]

And... 1 Northern Shrike.

Hawk food: 46 Wild Turkeys, 6 Horned Larks, 1 Double-crested Cormorant, list definitely limited by heavy rain.

(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)