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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. For the first year in maybe a decade I missed out on a Vermont run... just wasn't able to get there. No Canadian islands either.
[above: Rough-legged Hawk hovering over field.]


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

One hundred hawks is always a nice count, but from one survey... that's a really nice day. One third of each: Roughlegs, Redtails, Harriers. Now without snow, you had to scan the ground as well as the trees to find stuff. But with Roughlegs and Harriers, as you hang out and see one bird, well, there's always a couple more and then a couple more...

With the mild weather, there were still a fair number of young Redtails around. We'll see if this continues. It was also a day for sparrows and chickadees to keep their heads down, as I had two adult Northern Shrikes [and Gerry Smith had three others in locations different from mine].
[right: Bonanza of Northern Shrikes: here's an adult out west of Watertown NY.]

Lake Ontario Lake Plain, NY
Saturday, November 25th was a nice day, weatherwise, with clear skies and temps running from the 20s to the 50s. Now, 100 hawks is nice, but eighty to 100+ occurs at Thanksgiving on one or the other surveys -- NY or VT -- just about every year. In addition to birds on the ground, it's fun to look for Redtails on very thin [Roughleg-like] perches and then to note Roughlegs on poles or other sturdy perches. And the results? Well, let's just say that perch choice and bellyband thickness are a couple of really unreliable ways to tell these two buteo species apart.

I also devoted almost an hour, driving up and down on a particular county road looking for a dark phase Redtail that Gerry Smith had seen on several occasions. No luck.

37 Red-tailed Hawks [8 juvenile birds]
30 Rough-legged Hawks [22 light; 6 dark; 2 undetermined]
30 Northern Harriers [4 adult males; 24 juvenile birds, mostly males]
2 American Kestrels
1 Cooper's Hawk.
[left: An immature Redtail hunting from a telephone wire along Hardscrabble Road, but here taking a break to eyeball the photographer.]

Hawk food:
27 Horned Larks, 2 Common Ravens,1 Northern Flicker, and 0 Snow Buntings. In addition, two species are sort of here and there: Wild Turkeys and Tundra Swans... although, not in mixed flocks.
Roughlegs are Us: With no snow cover, open country birds like this young Roughleg might be missed if you didn't scan the ground as well as the trees; a second immie Roughleg perched on a solid surface... not hard to miss.
(More counts online at the Counting for Poets page)