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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: Whimsy. A limestone wall with a spike-like cap of stones is typical of the ones found in southern Ontario. This 19th century wall on Amherst Island, southwest of Kingston, has several humorous inclusions: like the pink feldspar erratic.]

Winter Raptor Counts 2004: Christmas Eve '04Groundhog Day '05
Lake Champlain Lake Plain, VT
This didn't take long. While Tuesday, 11/22/04, was a balmy day, there were very few hawks and those were in clusters with a lot a empty roads in between.

It looks like it might be a poor vole year for the complex of fields primarily west of Rt. 22A in the towns of Bridport, Addison, and Panton along the Vermont side of Lake Champlain with the immature birds flying right on through the area unable to find enough to eat.
[right: Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk, Amherst I., absolutely perched where Old Testament hawkwatching mythology would dictate someone shout, "Roughleg!"]

12 Red-tailed Hawks [9 adults; 3 immatures]
12 Rough-legged Hawks [6 light morph; 5 dark; 1 undetermined; mostly adults]
4 Northern Harriers [1 adult male; 3 immatures]
1 American Kestrel [adult male]

And... 1 Northern Shrike.

Hawk Food:
7 Common Ravens & a couple of thousand Snow Geese.

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North Country, NY
On Friday 11/26/04, Gerry Smith and I conducted one of our Winter raptor counts west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and surrounding countryside. Snow overnight leaving roads icy and snow covered, but generally this was a very mild count day at the conclusion of a very mild Fall.

Based on a couple of quick tours by Gerry, we were not optimistic. We were however, looking at our first Roughlegs very early in the day and the numbers were respectable with an added bonus of Great Horned Owl sitting out in the open. An adult male Merlin posing for a nice scope look ended the day. Nice.
[left: Same juvenile Redtail from the thin branching above -- up close -- with some remnant orange nestling bloom above belly band.]

30 Red-tailed Hawks [23 adults; 5 immatures; 2 undetermined]
27 Rough-legged Hawks [19 light morph; 8 dark; mostly immatures]
5 Northern Harriers [2 adult males; 3 immatures]
1 American Kestrel [female]
1 Merlin [blue jack]

And... 4 Northern Shrikes, plus 1 Great Horned Owl.

Hawk food:
24 Tundra Swans, 8 Bonaparte's Gulls, 75 Wild Turkeys.
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Amherst Island, Ontario
In between counts, I managed a day in a civilized country. The island was also in a very mild state of affairs and all roads were drivable. That's were the Long-eared Owl sighting came from, but there wasn't a Roughleg to be found.

The Meadowlark and TV were just a little out of place for the end of November.

6 Red-tailed Hawks [4 adults; 1 immature; 1 undetermined]
5 Northern Harriers [2 adult males; 3 immatures]
3 American Kestrels [2 males; 1 female]
0 Rough-legged Hawks

And... 1 Long-eared Owl, 1 Northern Shrike, & 1 immie Turkey Vulture.

Hawk Food: 1 Meadowlark.

[above right: Great Horned Owl perched out in broad daylight just off Pt. Peninusula.]

(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)