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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.

Balmy winter weather with temps around 40F and a smog alert issued for Canada toned down the detail on birds making aging and sexing difficult. With that said, I had over 180 hawks and owls [adding in 60+ Redtails, 6 Roughlegs & 3 adult Bald Eagles seen along the way]. It was fascinating, to me, that 100% of the Redtails in the count areas were adults and well over ninety percent were "blonde" birds: while having blackish-brown backs and malar marks, they have sandy brown -- "blonde" or golden -- heads.

But, no Northern Harriers encountered anywhere [with over a thousand miles of daylight driving].
[above: Composite image -- fog-encrusted sunrise on Saturday, plus one of several Great Gray Owls from Sunday afternoon.]

Winter Raptor Counts 2004-05: Thanksgiving '04Christmas Eve '04
Lake Champlain Lake Plain VT
On Friday, February 4, 2005: A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A. A hazy day with temps 35F+.

12 Rough-legged Hawks [8 light, 2 dark; 2 undetermined]
9 Red-tailed Hawks [all adults]
2 Cooper's Hawks [adults]
2 American Kestrels [male/female]
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk [adult]

Hawk food: 40 American Robins, 17 Horned Larks, 15 Eastern Bluebirds, 4 Common Ravens.
[left: Hoar frost on teasel & beyond; right: typical blonde Redtail from VT, NY & Ontario, the head color on this bird looks much redder than it was, due to afternoon light.]
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North Country NY
On Saturday 2/5/05, a raptor count west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and surrounding countryside -- was conducted. The fog was pretty heavy in places with temps around 40F.

How warm was it... a relative thing, but there was a dead skunk down and out.

29 Red-tailed Hawks [all adults]
28 Rough-legged Hawks [21 light morph,7 dark; mostly immatures]
3 American Kestrels [all males]
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk [immature male]
1 Bald Eagle [sub-adult]

And... 9 Short-eared Owls [two locations], plus 2 adult Northern Shrikes.

Hawk food: 102 A. Robins, 53 Wild Turkeys, 38 Snow Buntings, 6 Horned Larks, 2 Northern Flickers, & a Coyote out on frozen Lake Ontario being watched by deer and turkeys foraging on the land.
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Amherst Island, Ontario
On Sunday February 7, I travelled over to Kingston and Amherst I., again very few hawks on the island, but there were a ton of birders prowling for owls. Fifty people were part of Kingston Field Naturalists trip and they reported a Great Gray Owl, in addition to a Boreal Owl in the Owl Woods, and a dozen Short-eared Owls out and about.

I was a KFN member back in the '70s, even having had the honor of being invited to tea at Helen Quilliam's house. But, there was a large contingent of cars and birders on the west end of the island... so I immediately headed to the other end of the island where I had a Great-horned Owl and a large Robin flock being eyed by a Shrike. The last thing I did on the island was to check the KFN west property and had a Snowy Owl teed up at the top of one of the big spreading oaks.
[right: Sunday afternoon bird from Enterprise, Ontario [a little north of Kingston & Amherst Island]

4 Red-tailed Hawks
1 Rough-legged Hawk [dark morph]

Plus, 1 Great-horned Owl, 1 Snowy Owl,1 Short-eared Owl, & an adult Northern Shrike.

Hawk food: 40+ American Robins.

Later on Sunday, I drove north of the 401 in search of another "parliment of owls:" 4 to 6 Great Gray Owls reported for several weeks in the vicinity of Enterprise, ON. Actually, a cluster of juvenile GGOs might better be called "a skater of owls... hanging." I had four birds on Sunday afternoon and digiscoped the birds on this page. On Monday morning, I went about surveying the same area for a total number of birds. On Monday morning, I had 9 Great Gray Owls in the area bounded by Rtes. 4, 14/7, 38 and the lakes.

(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)