HawkArtScience: Hawksaloft.com blog

28 September 2018

Three topics for this late Summer missive: birds on radar were in the news; hawks on NEXRAD; and a book to recommend. Also there is "Other News".

"We believe that any end can be achieved from the moment one possesses the right instruments, the right machines, the right technique."
-- Thomas Merton (1915-1968) Trappist monk and writer

Birds on Radar in the News...
From Georgia, an article explaining the early — mid July — departure of some species. Worth the read.

This Alabama article shows birds on radar, but the fun part is to read the comments. Conspiracy theories abound in the deep South.

"That's Not Rain On The Radar, It's Birds!" A story and radar from the Pittsburgh area… talking about shorebirds, but showing the migration signature lift-off of swallows.

Here's a dawn radar from 31 August showing the swallow arc leaving Cayuga Lake and making landfall at Sandy Pond. The same as shown on the Pittsburgh radar, above.

On July 10th, a post to the NYSBirds listserv asks about shorebirds off NYC on this radar loop. Maybe. But as the frontal line clears the Northeast, watch the lift-off of land birds across the Midwest and over the South.

Hawks on NEXRAD
The dispersal or austral hawk flight is a mid-July thru August event featuring this years juvenile hawks… many species. But as discovered and observed at Braddock Bay (north of Rochester NY), the flight consists primarily of juvenile Redtails with other species including Ohio River Valley Bald Eagles. At Derby Hill, the observance of this movement is a newer phenomenon. Redtails, Bald Eagles, Broadwings, the most common.

Here are three August 2018 radars, they show the dispersal flight of hawks. On the 15th, a signature line of Redtails coming out of Ontario. On the 16th, the line is inland against onshore winds. On the 26th, a classic bottlenecking/slowing of hawks as they negotiate the inlet, east of Braddock Bay. The winds on the top radars indicates a lake breeze component. On the bottom, it's a strong SW flow.

A nice flight of 36 Bald Eagles dispersed passed Derby Hill on 21 July (2 hours). This might sound early, but a tracked Bald from 2017 fits this timeframe nicely.
Using the AnimalTrackr app, a one year old BE left its home grounds and flew along the lake shore and through CNY in this same timeframe. Crossing the St. Lawrence River and entering Ontario, the bird turned around in Quebec and headed back S within two days. So unlike the Florida birds that pass by in May and June then summer in the Maritimes returning as the Northeast’s September Bald Eagle numbers, these Midwestern Balds turn around in short order.

The Bald Eagle named Freedom was hatched in 2016 and placed in a nest on Lake Erie. That’s the dot on the left hand map. I have no tracking for 2016, but likely the bird dispersed N, then went S. In 2017, the one-year Freedom took off N on July 17. The points on both maps get connected by straight lines, but that’s not the actual flightline. Likely the flightline was more along the lakeshores, then around the corner of Lake Ontario, not overwater.

On the right we see the turnaround after just two days in Canada! We also can see the wintering area. 

In July 2018, Freedom headed S to North Carolina right away! No hesitation or northbound movement. The bird is there now. AnimalTrackr is an app you can download.

The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

I read this book by Kirk Wallace Johnson in early summer. I thought it was a great read and I recommend it highly. It starts with a brief but nice history of Alfred Russell Wallace’s travels to Indonesia and his collections of the Birds of Paradise, long rumored to be extinct (or at least, hard to find). He found them, both alive and preserved. One boutique museum housed them, and therein lies the story.

Fly fishing is a unique sport and practiced well by unique sportsmen. Fly-tying is an even more unique thing with 19th century volumes exhibiting flies tied with some unique and mostly unavailable feathers. But therein lies this story of a young gifted fly fisherman who longed to tie flies with these feathers.

So he located the Tring Museum (alluded to above). Planned and executed a robbery of said site. Then he tied flies and also sold feathers in small baggies… just the combos others would want in order to tie the 19th century fly fishing flies (alluded to above).

And last the book brings in the detective who catches the feather thief… and then tries to find all the rest of the stolen feathers not recovered when the feather thief was caught.

There is much more to the story, beyond this summary.

In Other News...

Great graphics on the myths surrounding climate change. Check it out.

The Nastiest Feud in Science: a Princeton geologist has endured decades of ridicule for arguing that the fifth extinction was caused not by an asteroid but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions. But she’s reopened that debate. This is a nice read.


On 25 August 2018, this dispersal juvenile Broadwing passed Derby Hill on spring-like conditions. From a top view the tail was molting into adult tail type. And we see no other molt, so this juv is changing out tails just a few months out of the nest! On my outer Cape Cod watch, I have seen this style bird from April into May: adult tail type with no wing molt started.

"You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, 
like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here."
  — Alan Watts (1915-1973)

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