the opposite of a hawk watch | this count is one where the hawk watchers 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 approx. the same square miles.
Winter Raptor Counts 2002-3: Thanksgiving Day '02 Groundhog Day '03
Champlain Valley VT
[posted on Vermont Birds listserv]

For Sunday, December 22, 2002: A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A. Weather: partly cloudy with temps into the mid-40's, windy out of the SW.

There has been a notable shift in the Roughlegs observed since Thanksgiving! While the Roughleg number was just about the same, there has been a significant increase in the adult males and a diminishing of immatures and females. Redtails increased and are predominately adult males. The immature and adult female line has shifted south. It appears there were very few juveniles produced last summer -- by the most northerly nesting Redtails and the Roughlegs. The food up there is apparently at such a low enough point that adult males who we would rarely see, as they stay close to their summer territories, have come for a visit. The fine number of raptors in the Addison area -- especially just south of Rt. 125 -- is a result of the abundance of voles peaking in that area. I even observed crows standing around with voles in their beaks.

While everyone checks out the Dead Creek wildlife observation area on Rt. 17 for Roughlegs -- and it is a reliable and safe place to get away from the trucks and check for birds -- the busy, noisy highways are not good for adult raptors. They avoid these area, seeking instead the quieter, remote back roads. Another quicky note for this Winter... with the increase in professional adult birds -- both Roughlegs and Redtails -- scan the ground more for Roughlegs and look for Redtails perched on the fine branches of small trees!

Something interesting to watch for... if the area now has a signifcant snow pack [10+ inches], then that should caused the snow-intolerant Northern Harriers to move south. Bare areas [or nearly so] created by drifting will allow them to stay around, but too much snow and they're gone!

NINETY raptors in all!

33 Red-tailed Hawks [all adults; primarily males] + 4 more adults just south of the count area
38 Rough-legged Hawks [26 light; 11 dark; 1 undetermined] [23 adult; 8 immature; 6 undetermined] + 2 more just south
8 Northern Harriers [5 adult males; 1 adult female; 2 immatures]
3 American Kestrels [3 adult males]
1 Cooper's Hawk [immature male]
1 Bald Eagle [adult] at the Crown Pt. Bridge

Hawk Food: Horned Larks have moved on [groups 6-12 individuals/ maybe 10 such groups]; 1 Northern Flicker; 2 Common Ravens.


Northern NY
[posted on Oneida Birds listserv]

On Tuesday 12/24/02, Gerry Smith and I conducted one of our Winter raptor counts west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and environs into Cape Vincent and north to Clayton. Crystal clear skies dominated today with temps into the low 30s. This Christmas Eve Day count dates back to the late 1970's, started after I left the North Country and Gerry moved in!

The curious Redtail image [at right] with the black stingray-like attachment at the left wrist was digiscoped on Pt. Peninsula. After showing the picture around, the dark material is a "clingy, vet wrap" used to rehab this bird when it was injured. The when, where and why is under investigation...

0 Northern Harrier [early Dec. snowpack moved them out]
1 Northern Goshawk
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Sharp-shinned Hawk
25 Red-tailed Hawk [23 adult; 1 immature; 1 undetermined]
14 Rough-legged Hawk [11 dark; 3 light morph]
4 American Kestrel

Hawk food:
Horned Larks have moved south [43, down from 434] and no other northerly, open country ground birds; 63 Tundra Swans; 8 Bonaparte's Gulls; 50 Wild Turkeys [1 group on Pt. Peninsula]; 1 Northern Flicker; and 1 Northern Mockingbird [a very rare bird in Jefferson County NY!].


Wolfe Island, Ontario
[posted on Ontario Birds listserv]

On Christmas Day, with any travel off the Tug Hill Plateau south or east inadvisible due to the Nor'easter, this closet Canadian spent four hours on Wolfe Island looking specifically for raptors. I love Kingston Ontario with its old stone buildings and celtic aires.. Growing up with CBC on the TV, I was watching curling every Saturday and the wild journeys of John and Janet Foster whenever. And on Christmas Day, the Wolfe Islander ferry was free to all.

My hope for a concentration of buteos -- Redtails and Roughlegs -- present just weeks earlier was a bust, but I did find two [of the four CBC?!] Snowy Owls.

Locations of Snowy Owls:

1. Female [top right w/3 geese], well beyond hatching year, on the ground 100-200 meters behind a farm [east] on 8th Line Road south of Reed's Bay Road. I stopped to watch a couple hundred Canada Geese drop into the field and noticed that the Snowy was doing the same! She was craning and turning as the geese landed all around her, quite close... so near and yet so far.

2. Male, near adult bird, just in from the junction of Button Bay Lane and Rt. 95. I got there by following 7th Line Road to its end, turning right and then at the dog leg just before Rt. 95, stopped for this incredibly white object teed up on a plowed furrow in the field. It was a male Snowy within 50 meters of the two houses. Also of note: this bird had a black transmitter antenna visible from the back -- an approx. three centimeter long wire with a tassled end that would wave about as the bird turned his head [right, showing black tip of transmitter].

Other raptors... Bald Eagle: 1 adult, 1 subadult [left], Northern Harrier: 1 immature female, Northern Goshawk: 1 adult male, Red-tailed Hawk: 2 adults, American Kestrel: 2 adult males.

(More counts online at Counting for Poets page)