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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: Cemetery, Pt.Peninsula Village NY]

Winter Raptor Counts 2003-4: Thanksgiving '03Christmas Eve '03

Well, we're deep in the depths of Winter now and evidence of southward raptor movement continues. The adult Redtails are getting darker, the wave of dark morph Roughlegs observed in NY ten days ago was a temporary phenomenon, the Harriers and Kestrels are gone. Still, over one hundred and fifty raptors were had on this road trip covering regular census areas in Vermont and New York, plus I checked out the Grand Isle complex in VT, ran a transect of Quebec and Ontario [by driving 401], and spent a day over on Amherst Island.

In addition to the NY & VT count areas, Red-tailed Hawks were observed pair sitting in Canada: Quebec and eastern Ontario. As reported in the Wintertails pages in addition to Redtails, Rough-legged Hawks were observed pair sitting last Winter when a lot of adult birds were here [and that's a long way from home].
With much of the Northeast water bodies frozen solid, the only Bald Eagles I encountered were on the open channels of the St. Lawrence River. Two adults and at least five immatures were observed on the ice edge.

Lake Champlain Lake Plain VT
On Monday, February 2, 2004: A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A. Temps reached 36°F under blue skies and twice as many Roughlegs as either of the other counts for this area. And the birds were concentrated at the lower end of the census area... mostly below Crown Point Road.
[right: Well-marked, light morph, sub-adult female Roughleg... watercolored]

24 Roughlegs [17 light morph, 7 dark]
20 Redtails [19 adults, 1 immature]
No Harriers or Kestrels

... And 1 Northern Shrike

Hawk Food: Small assortment [50-75] of Snow Buntings & Horned Larks across the count area, 10 Wild Turkeys.
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North Country NY
On Wednesday 12/4/04, a raptor count west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and surrounding countryside -- was conducted. Following an overnight burst of snow that lingered into the mid-morning as light flurries, the skies cleared and temps rose into the low thirties. Great looks at the newly arrived Redtails with noticeably darker backs and nice Roughleg numbers, but not the fifty birds counted just ten days earlier. I made two passes through Pt. Peninsula and basically had the same birds by plumage morning and afternoon... no big concentration.
[below: Barnscape, Pt. Peninsula Village NY]

23 Rough-legged Hawks [17 light, 6 dark]
16 Red-tailed Hawks [14 adults, 1 immature, 1 undetermined]
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk [adult male]
No Harriers or Kestrels

Hawk Food: 581 Snow Buntings [300 in one flock], 199 Horned Larks, 5 Lapland Longspurs, 3 American Robins.

Amherst Island, Ontario
On Thursday, February 5th, I ventured west of Kingston, Ontario and took the ferry over to Amherst Island. It's a short boat trip, but after all the very cold weather, the ferry was slowed fighting the ice that jammed the narrow path. The ferry [one] runs back and forth keeping the channel open every hour, all day. The weather was pleasant enough with temps starting at -10° and increasing to -2°C; it was windy [20 km/hr].
It was interesting to see an immature Roughleg move an adult Redtail from its perch by flying directly toward it. When the Roughleg got within ten metres, the Redtail relinquish its perch and casually flew to the tree the young Roughleg had launched from... fairly peaceful encounter.
Finally, as a finale to the trip, I had my one and only Snowy Owl of the entire Winter 2003-2004. And it was an adult male no less!

16 Red-tailed Hawks
7 Rough-legged Hawks
1 Snowy Owl [adult male]
No Harriers or Kestrels

Hawk Food: just a handful of individual Snow Buntings and Horned Larks, and not much else.

(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)


Grand Isle: A complex of mid-lake islands extending up
from Burlington to Quebec... touristy in the Summer.

Immature Redtail on Amherst Island: Can you distinguish
the perch thickness choice from the RL above?!

Snowy Owl: Male just by shape and long tail.

Monochrome scene: Weathered fieldstone barn
& zig-zag split rail fence on Amherst Island.