HawkArtScience: Hawksaloft.com blog

3 March 2018

Drawn from my NEXRAD archive, we’ll at some hawk flights missed or undercounted plus one new hawk type of flightline. Also, Big Weather terms that I already have online will be discussed along with two articles exploring weather patterns beyond the individual hawkwatch. Also we’ll get an into to MOTUS — the new migration net for birds with tracking devices.

The Legend of Local Weather
“You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows”
  Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues

More metaphoric than atmospheric, this famous Dylan lyric.  Once upon a time it looked so fine… that we’d go to the hawkwatch. Based on the weather; the right weather. This we know nowadays is only a hint of what might be going to happen. Migration is a two-part event: a combo of weather and timing. But there is a big-picture for migration events: fetch, or as coined in surfing, a large corridor of optimal conditions that gather the waves and presents them as a large event, farther downstream.

There’s an example of fetch on my weather page. But everything on this page is about Big Weather and includes my own terminology for this stuff.


For last Fall, NASA Goddard put up a smoke, sea salt, and soil animation for August thru November 2017. This sort of thing using fronts and hawks could be done for any Fall. But this is kewl… with a Dylan quote at the start of the narration. 

On the subject of Big Weather, Hawk Mt. has published two studies, looking at seasonal weather… after the fact. The first one just sort of counts Fall cold fronts and then concludes it doesn’t effect your hawk count. The second one looks at the Broad-winged Hawks, in the Spring, and looks at first occurrence based on the North Atlantic Occilation… a Big Weather factor. The NAO study is also available in PDF.

"Alaska where weather algorithms can’t keep up with the warming” discusses something that effects NEXRAD observations, even in CNY! Weather radar tries to take higher temps/humidity into account, and adjusts the display accordingly. This cuts down on atmospheric clutter due to warmer temperature than anticipated.


“The Motus Wildlife Tracking System (Motus, latin for ‘movement’) is an international collaborative research network that uses a coordinated automated radio telemetry array to track the movement and behaviour of small flying organisms. Motus tracks animals (birds, bats, and large insects) affixed with digitally-encoded radio transmitters that broadcast signals several times each minute. These signals are detected by automated radio telemetry stations that scan for signals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. When results from many stations are combined, the array can track animals across a diversity of landscapes covering thousands of kilometers.” This all without a satellite system or continually recapturing the critters. The basics and tracking of animals being studied are here.
Youtube intro:


"If you pray for rain long enough, it eventually does fall. 
If you pray for floodwaters to abate, they eventually do. 
The same happens in the absence of prayers."

 -- Steve Allen, TV host, musician, actor, comedian (1921-2000)

Here are some radar captures from my archive:
16 April 2012: Prefrontal and nice date for a huge flight. This overwater flight on SSW winds also shows an inland flight — away from the Great Lakes leading edge — around the lake’s corner. Also note the burst W of Watertown, and then across the St.Lawrence River. Report said: “Based on cloud movement and high altitude birds, I would guess upper level winds were more westerly in origin.” The southerly component is clear from the Jeff Co flightlline. Also, upon second viewing, note the large inland flight between Syracuse and Rome… these are birds that never were along the Great Lakes shoreline! While Braddock Bay reported 37K hawks on this day, Derby only counted 3400.

28 April 2013: With “A high bit of flight today in the blue skies.” The SE wind component shows the Stony Pt. effect, with birds going out and coming back from the Henderson NY peninsula. Braddock had 7K, Derby only 800.

3 May 2015: “Light S wind early, becoming N, full sun. Mostly low birds at the South Lookout. Total 586.” This was a lake breeze day with a huge overwater flight that was still going strong at 7pm. Birds achieved ‘escape velocity’ and darkened the shoreline all day. I went to Pulaski and then drove W stopping every few miles to observe the extremely high flight. Working back toward Derby Hill, but at Bishop Road, I encountered the low flightline and the high one just a quarter mile apart. In the following year, I also tracked low birds rounding the lake corner, but also high birds farther inland. For over-water flights, instead of coming in off the lake low, they are always very high. The righthand view shows that unadjusted clutter, in addition to the latent flightline.

2 May 2017: Rochester had a 500 hawk hour captured below. Looks like they are coming out of Ontario and bouncing along and sticking to the shoreline. This Ontario bridge effect is a late season thing that I had recorded before. In addition there is precipitation happening in the loop.

Two links on my site: first is John Richardson's 1974 paper closing with Q&A from conference attendees, with actual typewriter typing… not a typewriter font; second, with sources going back to the early 60s, is Jim Baird's well-told tale from the ornithology compilation, Gatherings of Angels (1999) -- his first thought and poetic reference to warblers on weather radar… just a great read!

In Other News...


Links to two of many articles looking into the ‘firehawk’ story out of Australia. This suggests kites carry fire from one site to another in order to enhance hunting.

From early January, here’s a couple of Redtail wintering pairs from my VerPlank Road winter raptor survey drive. On the left I thought I was imaging one bird, but upon downloading into Lightroom… a pair. On the right we have a returning wintering pair on a very familiar first-light perch, in a bit of a snow squall.

"A little too abstract, a little too wise,
It is time for us to kiss the earth again."
 — Robinson Jeffers, Poet (1887-1962)

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