HawkArtScience: Hawksaloft.com blog

15 October 2016

Here’s a long range and long exposure NEXRAD image on the second day following the cold front, 15 September 2016, nicely showing a river of “hawks” flowing from Bridgewater to Baltimore with a couple of tributaries merging in heavily trafficked NJ (also follow the spray/lines NE back into NY and CT).

Myth, mystery, and wishful thinking aside, you can set your biological clock by the PrimaryBW Push of Autumn™.

Click the image for larger view and details...

In this regional NEXRAD screenshot over six hours (motion also recorded, not attached), individual contributing radar stations are subtly indicated by a light reddish-brown cross; some stations are easily spotted/hidden by a fingerprint of ground clutter. The ending time, date and source of the image is shown in the white header. From the site’s main radar page, “Regional reflectivity” is a radio button in the left hand column.

Broadstroke NEXRAD captures the signature migration. A river. This digital flow is familiar, and noted in years when several ground locations reported large flights in sequence. On the ground in the Northeast, this day or prior: no counts of 10K+ were recorded in the Northeast (A quick and dirty look, did I miss a big one?). 

So what is a hawkwatcher to think of the PBWPA™?! If this initial movement is missed, it is common for sites to say they’re still waiting… when Elvis has left the building. Add NEXRAD to the information base.


Color, which is the poet's wealth, is so expensive that most take to mere outline or pencil sketches and become men of science.
   Henry David Thoreau, an early Massachusetts hawkwatcher 
(some say… transcendentally laying about on a New England afternoon)

With NEXRAD, over the last ten years at least, the PBWPA™ timing is seen as an exact science, birdwise. However, it presents differently: Duluth v. the Northeast.

This year in Duluth, a big afternoon was followed by a nice morning that faded inland… just ten thousand plus counted. The concentrated flight showed well on NEXRAD for the afternoon of the 13th, and throughout the following day. Below, is the next-day afternoon radar with the turquoise hawk flight well inland and still going strong, even out of sight. From hawkcount.org reports, 13/14 September 2016: “The cold front produced big time!...large Broad-wing flight, and many other raptors seen including a dark adult Swainson's Hawk […] Great Broad-wing liftoff and multiple large kettles before noon, but then the wind shifted around and the hawks were pushed inland and eventually completely out of our view.”

Here’s a New England radar pairing from 2013 (an image comparison I made to introduce radar motion captures, not attached). On the left, a huge movement missed crossing the Quabbin region; on the right, two days later in central MA… Big Day (look very, very closely on the the right). Bigger day missed on the ground… where the hawks are not.

Click the image for larger view and details...

Farther N and with a straight-line water barrier: Duluth has higher hawk counts where 100K flights are directly observed from the ground (on occasion), but regularly observed via NEXRAD. Annually it looks like a cataract of birds. 
[BTW, what about the Detroit-Ontario CA huge flights and NEXRAD? It's a head-scratcher. I have yet to make any sense of that situation, even with the obvious aquatic bottleneck.]

Inland in the Northeast (New England thru PA): away from the coast it is a spray, always with thin SW-running lines on motion radar. Occasionally, a nodule appears, and this is that 10K day, when/where observed. The big problem — and the main factor for migrating hawks — is keeping a comfortable distance from Big Water, such that the local “wisdom” continues to look forward to the Big Day even waiting well beyond the next frontal passage. On radar, the picture clearly shows the set-up is going to be hit or miss. I prefer poker to craps… that’s just me.

Cape May and Braddock Bay (and others, if they fit the rhyming scheme) offer birdwatchers a peek behind the science curtain with banding operations… always a surprise to be had there, after hours with the bins. And now approaches added quite the opposite of a-bird-in-the-hand. 

From birdshot to banding, optics and Sibley, telescopes aimed at the moon to nightflight software, GPS (transmitters and chips), to NEXRAD. A newly-minted Nobel Laureate wrote, “The times they are a-changin’”. But still not on the radar for most birders.

NEXRAD Bonus Round: 13-18 September 2013
Let's look at reality from the hawks, and then the hawkwatchers. Two different stories. On the other hand, it's the same story: the Broadwing concentration goes off on its tight schedule, as it has forever and ever, The End; or we can tell our tale as the hawkwatchers see it, don't see it, see something and base a story on that.

Below, as the cold front clears, hawks are quickly on the move raining S through central New England. Oh no. Unbeknownst and undetected.So, below, we have the aftershock to the Big Day (hawks, not hawkwatchers). It is set-to-fast, for the flow. First, there are hawks lifting off in central MA... leftovers from yesterday. Also there are two waves that are coming onto radar in CT. Note, these three excitements of Broadwings are being swept by NW winds. Last, look carefully... there is stream of new stuff entering MA on a subtle stream just E of Nashua NH (ASH), bent eastward by NW winds.
Once upon a time there was the fifth biggest Big Day had in the last twenty-four years (where is there a children's book editor when you need one?!). Now boys and girls, you will have to look reallllllly close to catch the spurt of BWs that issues across Wachusett Mt. (FIT radar station). What a thin straight line it 'tis.Another Big Day on the 18th for the hawkwatchers (captured below)... and as you now have come to expect, it's a narrow isolated line of birds. But let's be sure to add that size doesn't matter. As with the Big Day on the 15th, for what it's worth, this is thin discharge. But a lot of heavy breathing at the Wachusett hawkwatch with over 10K hawks! Focus on the line from Nashua to Worchester. Had a nice time, I'll call you.

In Other News...
Other things with wings, on the move.


[AJ, imaged at Derby Hill NY]

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.
   Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel laureate (7 Oct 1885-1962)

They've got the urge for going, and
they've got the wings so they can go.

— Joni Mitchell

Hawk•art•science blog
Truth and beauty. Art and science. Entries here will be on that flightline, although I will stray from the hawk-part on occasion, or will I? I aiming this beast at hawkheads and/or the young seasonal revolutionary biologists. It's for the flexible and young-at-heart too.
Comments, questions, excited utterances, and/or exasperated afterthoughts from you, dear reader, are welcome and will receive a reply. — Tom Carrolan
(Image above: "Recent self-portrait No.3, 2009")

Original recipe Hawksaloft.com
The Hawksaloft.com website was launched in 1997, following three years of printed handbills, plus numerous emails, all voicing my alt.hawkwatching ideas in New England. If you've been here before, the original site is archived in all its old-timey graphic glory. To navigate the old way, just click on Psychedelia the Hawk Owl and be transported back in time... trippy. Any bookmarks or links found anywhere online still work.

Not everything that counts can be counted and
not everything that can be counted counts.

— Albert Einstein