HawkArtScience: Hawksaloft.com blog

10 July 2017

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.

   — Walt Whitman
[who might have said, of meeting a hawkwatcher, what he once said of a photographer: “Not a Leaves of Grass man, but friendly to me.”]

The three most asked questions I field about “hawks” on NEXRAD are: Can you tell how high they are? Can you count them? And. Can you actually find them using radar? The first two were worked on and published in the 80s by Sid Gauthreaux, Ken Able and Paul Kerlinger. Shortly, twelve-year olds will be continuing these efforts on their iPhones.

Using radar to actually find and inspect hawk migration — mostly outside the one-hawkwatch-dimension — is my interest. Although easily accessible, NEXRAD is a blunt tool. During the Spring of 2017 I archived 100 stills and videos primarily along Lake Ontario… no vultures, hawks or falcons were harmed in the capturing of these pixels.
[Snapshots are supported by videos; animated GIFs show hours in seconds]

Hawk Migration: A Multiverse
In cosmology, the idea that our view of things is restricted by our singular place in space and time, and our senses, and that it might need broadening, because there's a lot more out there, is the idea of the multiverse. The stuff we see overwhelms what might be out there that we don’t see, so it’s comfortable to think ’this is it’. 

In science fiction (after Schrödinger stopped pussyfooting around), Star Trek’s warp drive offered one window into time shifts, while another had alternate dimensions played out with good Spock meeting evil Spock ("Mirror, Mirror" episode). Also, only showing at midnight, “Let’s Do the Time Warp Again” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) challenged our view of the possible. 

For starters, think of a hawk you are seeing (and ones you’re not) in terms of where they were two days ago. Now, from the hawk’s POV, can you meditate on the smallness of the hawk’s space-time continuum that you occupy? Applying multiverse here says, the limited view from the hawkwatch limits the interpretation of what is observed there. To make better sense, imagine there are often as not, other (even massive) hawk movements on ‘off’ winds, and even wrong winds (according to your metrics) around and about. This, because the 'right' winds are there… according to the hawk. 

A human holiday weekend, from a bird’s-eye view, shows a mass movement. It is like a hawk migration. Neither is of one mind. Within each concentrated event there is variation in speed, many itineraries, and a lot of different destinations. Little keeps these tight streams together for long. The true nature of these lines show as they are in the throes of the slightest wind change or find that next exit with restrooms and encased cold beverages.

Singularity to Multiverse: A Brief History of Hawkwatch Reporting
Not here
Here or there
(much time passes)
Here and there
Here and there, and over there!
"Here, There and Everywhere"
[Paul McCarthy (1966), take 14…]

There were many NEXRAD tales to tell — old and new — from the Spring of 2017. Here are three different radar stories in the vicinity of the SE corner of Lake Ontario. What is not shown in any of these captures are the hawk flying ‘under the radar’. That’s the low/entertaining dimension counted upon even as there are birds at and beyond (but also to one side or the other of) the limit of eye and optics… more the chorus than the many verses.

For each set of three radar images below, click (each) to enlarge & read details...

NEXRAD Bonus Round: Inland Wave
And for your additional viewing pleasure, here's another Big Day. Inland. With an inland flow off NW winds, but on an optimal date (28 April 2017): a massive flight of many lines (with many more lines within) develops by late morning. This is a mythbuster! More a floodplain than a river; likely more common an event than the Big Day... of hawkwatcher-mindset.

Here are two screenshots showing the early near-shore flight developing (left), into a late morning movement shifting inland on W winds going NW with many lines.

Click on the dual image below to enlarge to a motion GIF with further details.

NEXRAD Bonus Round: Nighthawks!
Midnight maddness. The dusk stuff is just the beginning of the Big Night. And you can mark it on your calendar, exactly, annually!

A classic wet weather interlude always kicks off this flight, Thursday into Friday overnight (25-26 May 2017). In addition to the subtle Utica-Syr lift-off that trickles N, the flight up the Rt 81 corridor is amazing. The darker blues indicate denser numbers caused by the slowing/concentrating of the flight over the well-lit Watertown-Black River-Fort Drum area… slowing/circling/feeding/migrating.

In eastern MA, nighthawks are often concentrated on liftoff along highway corridors (river valleys work too). Just my quarter-century observations there. The first peer-review question testing my note: As you see this from a highway, how do know it’s focussed there? Answer: This directional flow on NEXRAD utilizing the Rt.81 corridor. What’s noteworthy: most nocturnal radar is more of a mushrooming from the center. But directional flow, like this, always captures my attention.

Looking at eBird over the last ten years, this is a very nice date for a push of nighthawks. Reports from eBird for last night, in the wake of the precip, were not helpful. Yes, I made this screenshot at 1:11a. No, I didn’t go to my desktop and capture a motion video… maybe next year, my tendency was to roll over.

June NEXRAD, On a Kite Bubble
Hot hot hot: the weekend of Friday, 18 June thru Sunday the 20th looked like a perfectly fine Kite Bubble (trademark still pending). 

On Friday, just out of (scientific) curiosity, I checked NEXRAD for any activity. The fine line of biota shows the radar signature of dragonflies. Note the whippy ’S’ curve as the critters are pushed around by a storm cell at their leading E tip. This influx is clearly coming out of Canada along that land bridge from the Midwest. There are June Broadwings and others entering the area too. Like the discovery of a blown-East Coast flightline, these hawks are only 'off course' if you've seen such things as migration routes drawn in textbooks with a straightedge or French curve using India ink and a Rapidograph pen. They are ‘late’ if you’re the judgmental type. Human.

NEXRAD20170616.gif JuneBroadwingmolt.jpg

Sunday afternoon at Derby Hill I moved, not to my iPhone, but to my scope for a small hawk above three TVs as the temperature blew 90F: a juvenile Broadwing showing June molt. Joining: a skinny hawk kiting dragonflies floated into view (Big Day for the crunchy green ones). Exceedingly thin secondaries and no molt tilted my classing toward juvenile. In about the time it has taken you to read this paragraph: the bird executed a teardrop dive toward more dragonflies.
Mississippi Kite! 

In Other News...
A biologist and an engineer visit the hawkwatch.



History may be read as the story of the magnificent rearguard action 
fought during several thousand years by dogma against curiosity. 

  — Robert Lynd, writer (1879-1949) 

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