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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 approximately the same square miles. While I hoped to get over to the Vermont fields, I got snowed out of that adventure; it was a brief event, but driving there and getting around was an issue. Better luck next time.
[above: Northern Harrier coursing over stubble field.]


'06-'07 Winter Raptor Counts:
Thanksgiving • Christmas Eve • Groundhog Day

When does 113 equal 100? Not that new math, which hasn't been new for quite a while, but hawk counting. Without snow cover or any signifcant weather systems to the North, one wouldn't expect much movement southbound. And there doesn't appear to be any. Redtails, Roughlegs and Harriers are around in the about the same numbers as were had at Thanksgiving [100 hawks then; 113 on Christmas Eve].
[right: Adult Red-tailed Hawk, on windy days birds get blown close up every so often.]

The El Nino-La Nina pattern, while squashing the hurricane season, has flooded Eastern North America with non-seasonal conditions: Fall-Winter-Spring... what's the diff? Going with the non-scientific idea that any one factor can prove or refute anything -- evolution, war-winning, global warming -- I have a single mammal species indicitive of "climate change" [to use the rebranded term]. I had a dead Opossum on the road in Jefferson County NY. On Christmas Eve, for gawd sake! My first in over thirty years of driving the highways and byways of the North Country. As a species with a long lineage and known to abhor change, evolutionarily speaking, my brief quest for a global warming poster species for Northern New York is: the Virginia Opossum. Back to the original semi-scientific point: the last significant El Nino [just about a decade ago] sent tropical storm-like waves into the NE on a SW to NE vector but the temps were ten degrees, or more, cooler. Hence it was snow and not rain. So El Nino under the recent climatic conditions is a factor for the non-Winter of 2006-07, so far.

Lake Ontario Lake Plain, NY
Blue skies and green fields. Temps in the 40s and rising, but winds wafting out of West at fifteen gusting to over twenty miles per hour does sound much like Christmas Eve. There were Meadowlarks -- two -- in the fields.

The downside of the winds, I think, is that it cut down on the Northern Shrike sightings -- there should have been birds around, but none were teed up with the winds. But strong winds can benefit the hawk photographer when you position yourself to have a hawk blown back over your head. I had of couple of those opps with decent results.
[right: An immature Roughleg over Hell Street (yes that's a real address) checks out potential prey item . Light or dark, or all of the above?]

The Harrier numbers were fairly outrageous, courtesy of the Virginia-style weather. On the flip-side, the nightshift harriers, Short-eared Owls are just everywhere in complimentary numbers, according to Gerry Smith.

42 Red-tailed Hawks [33 adults]
35 Northern Harriers [5 adult males; 22 juvenile birds, mostly males]
33 Rough-legged Hawks [25 light morph]
3 American Kestrels

Hawk food:
32 Snow Buntings, 2 Meadowlarks, and 1 Northern Flicker. And back by popular demand: " In addition, two species are sort of here and there: Wild Turkeys and Tundra Swans... although, not in mixed flocks."

Wintering: Big juvenile Redtail with a dark throat hanging on to a perch; one of several enjoyers of the warmest Christmas Eve in recent memory.
(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)