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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.

Starting in Vermont on a Sunday when the conditions were just passed lousy -- snow and rain departing -- I made a note to myself to conduct these things on sunny, blue sky days in the future. In Northern NY, we started in a torrential rain and then dodged snow squall in the afternoon.... are we having fun yet? Not really. But while in upstate NY, I jumped over to Ontario and took a run at Amherst Island, not for the Owl Woods, but for the Redtails and Roughlegs and the Kingston Brewing Company!

Champlain Valley VT
For Sunday, February 2, 2003 -- A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A.

Weather: overcast with temps into the mid-20's and very light snow by mid-afternoon.

This is my third and final raptor count for the Winter of '02-03. The roads were playing like transects for Robins and Bluebirds. They were lifting up off the roads where they had come for food and grit. The low pressure and low ceiling mostly kept the raptors indoors [ie, out of sight mostly]. But Monday morning was a new day -- and a sunny one, with more raptors out and about.

21 Red-tailed Hawks [19 adults; 2 immatures]
18 Rough-legged Hawks [11 light; 7dark] [16 adults; 2 immatures]
[No Kestrels or Harriers]

Hawk Food: 96 Horned Larks, 80 American Robins, 48 Eastern Bluebirds, 14 Snow Buntings, 12 Wild Turkeys, 1 Lapland Longspur.

Winter Raptor Counts 2002-3: Thanksgiving Day '02 Christmas Eve '02

Northern NY
On Tuesday 2/4/03, Gerry Smith and I conducted one of our Winter raptor counts west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and environs. The Weather? Heavy rain to heavy winds to snow squalls and temps falling from the mid-30s through the twenties... just another day in the North Country.

Like in Vermont, there was a eerie presence of Robins along the roads [West of Ransom Road toward CapeVincent]. The birds were up and out of the interior swamps mostly likely for food after weeks of the deep freeze and high calorie expenditure.

The hawk numbers have been low now on all three counts, but Bill Purcell came across a band of Roughlegs down in Oswego County double our numbers... an intriguing find that he repeated two weeks later. 2004 will give him an opportunity to see if he can repeat it with another run.

17 Red-tailed Hawks [16 adults; 1 immature]
11 Rough-legged Hawks [6 light; 5dark] [9 adults; 1 immature; 1 undetermined]
1 Northern Harrier! [adult female]

Hawk Food: 180 American Robins, 76 Snow Buntings, 58 Horned Larks.

Amherst Island, Ontario
On Wednesday 2/5/03, I took the ferry to Amherst Island: $5 CDN [$3 US ] roundtrip. Famous for its Owl Woods, I was there for a buteo blitz, but also came across a Snowy Owl and a Northern Shrike in the process! Actually, I was looking for any excuse to spend the evening roaming around Kingston Ontario, being a closet Canadian myself. Good trip on all accounts.

11 Red-tailed Hawks [10 adult, 1 immature]
7 Rough-legged Hawks [6 dark; 1 light] [3 adult; 2 immature; 2 undetermined]
1 Snowy Owl
1 Northern Shrike

Hawk Food: None of the above, but a Pileated Woodpecker along the 401, and another [shown above] in Kingston.

(More counts online at Counting for Poets page)