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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.

Winter Raptor Counts 2002-3: Christmas Eve '02Groundhog Day '03

Lake Champlain Lake Plain VT
For Sunday, December 1, 2002: A raptor survey of Bridport, Addison, and Panton, mostly west of Rt. 22A Weather: light snow ending, overcast, brightening in the afternoon, windy.

The problem was getting there. It snowed heavier and heavier as Tom Tyning and I drove north out of the Berkshires. The elevation was a factor though, as we dropped into the Rutland valley it was snowing mostly across the hilltops.

Always a concern, the skies brightened making seeing plummage details at a distance enjoyable!

As in 2001, the early Roughleg numbers in Vermont were better than NY.

1 Bald Eagle [adult]
11 Northern Harriers [7 adult males; 1 adult female; 3 immatures, including an AHY female]
25 Red-tailed Hawks [22 adults; 3 immatures]
37 Rough-legged Hawks [21 light; 13 dark; 3 undetermined] [13 adult; 16 immature; 8 undetermined] [sexing also done]
3 American Kestrels [2 adult males; 1 undetermined]

Hawk Food:
8 Eastern Bluebirds
Zero Northern Shrikes
675 Snow Geese on the ground at the DCWMA feeding farm; another 2000+ in the air over Lake Champlain earlier


North Country NY
On Tuesday 12/3/02, Gerry Smith and I conducted one of our Winter raptor counts west of Watertown NY -- Pt. Peninsula and environs into Cape Vincent. While the skies had cleared after Monday eve's snowfall, temps ranged from -18F to +10F.

1 Bald Eagle [adult]
1 Northern Harrier [adult male]
2 Cooper's Hawks
1 Sharp-shinned Hawks
13 Red-tailed Hawks [12 adult; 1 immature]
10 Rough-legged Hawks [5 dark; 5 light morph]
4 American Kestrels

Hawk food:
434 Horned Larks, 189 Snow Buntings, 13 Lapland Longspurs.
No Northern Shrikes

In addition, at 4pm, we had 6 TREE SWALLOWS along the shore of Lake Ontario on Pillar Pt., Brownville NY. They flew by very close, turned and came back, one came within three feet of the car. They were all un-Tree Swallow-like... very chunky-looking... as they were fluffed out in maximum insulation mode... it was six degrees above zero at the time!


Other NY Raptor Notes
12/2/02 -- One adult male Roughleg was bearly observed hunting the Ithaca airport at Rt. 13 in a full-blown snow squall as I exited the Laboratory of Ornithology. In a previous century, my daily run took me out Game Farm Road and up Stevenson Road on the expansive Cornell campus. Today I drove out there in a light snow to see the congregation of Redtails who take communion at the pheasant raising operation. Oh. My. God. What a sight! From one vantage point I counted 18 Redtails with three at a time visble as I scanned with binoculars. A total of thirty birds in and around, coming to and from, the game farm.

12/4/02 -- Twelve Redtails and 5 Roughlegs counted in a farmland pocket west of Fort Edward NY [north of Albany]. Hawk Owl reports put this little agricultural valley on the map a few years ago. I spent an hour or so just checking out this area on my way back home... nice "boutique" raptor area.

About the Images:
[Title image] Two levels of cloudiness over Lake Ontairo: with air temps starting well below zero, the lake surface is steaming. The upper cloud bank is lake effect on WNW winds, it is to the south of the count area, thank goodness.
[Raptor images] Redtail over Roughleg, both adult males digiscoped on an overcast day in Vermont.
[Roadside sign] Finally, over 1000 acres of this IBA has been protected for grassland species including wintering raptors , thanks to Gerry Smith.