Piitaistakis-South Livingstone Raptor Watch Spring 2009

The South Livingstone Raptor Count for the spring migration of 2009 has now begun. First official day of counting began on 15th February 2009. Follow the daily movement of raptors on this blog updated daily by Peter Sherrington.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May 25 [Day 87] (Piitaistakis Ridge) The temperature only varied from 9C to 11C and upslope conditions with E to ENE winds persisted until noon when showers started moving from the NW which recurred sporadically throughout the afternoon. After 1700 winds changed to S but despite the changes in wind direction the wind never exceed 15 km/h. Cloud cover was 10% altostratus to 0900 after which thick stratocumulus cloud moved slowly from the north and we experienced 80-100% cloud cover for the rest of the day. Non-migratory and resident Osprey, Bald Eagle, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Golden Eagle (still occasionally displaying) and Prairie Falcon were in evidence, but the only migrant was a subadult Golden Eagle that glided low over our heads at 1745. It was a perfect way to end the spring 2009 season. At 1055 a flock of 45 Canada Geese, most showing extensive moult flew high to the east over the ridge, and at 1440 6 American White Pelicans flew very high to the north well to the E of the ridge. Three Cedar Waxwings were first occurrences for the season and the final total bird count was 17,638 birds of 95 species. 12.5 hours (993.4) GOEA 1 (2737) TOTAL 1 (3837)
May summary Only one full day (May 18) was lost to unfavourable weather and we spent a total of 24 days (296.9 hours) in the field, the last 15 days being spent on the ridge. The days and hours are 26.3% and 26.74% higher than last year’s effort respectively. During this time we recorded 417 migrant raptors of 17 species with the total being 23% higher than last May’s count. The relative lateness of this years movement meant that most species occurred in higher numbers than last year’s May count: Osprey 13 (+85.7%), Bald Eagle 23 (+9.52%), Northern Harrier 22 (+175%), Sharp-shinned Hawk 89 (+7.23%), Broad-winged Hawk 8 (+60%), Swainson’s Hawk 6 (+500%), Red-tailed Hawk 66 (+120%), Ferruginous Hawk 6 (+500%), Rough-legged Hawk 1 (not recorded in May last year), Golden Eagle 126 (+13.51%), American Kestrel 6 (+100%) and Peregrine Falcon 3 (+ 50%). The count of 2 Merlins was the same as last year, while only Turkey Vulture 4 (-20%), Cooper’s Hawk 15 (-28.6%), Northern Goshawk 18 (-33.3%) and Prairie Falcon 2 (-60%) occurred in numbers lower than last year’s May count. Compared to last year the season’s combined species count was 367 birds (- 8.73%) lower than last year with most of the deficit resulting from a Golden Eagle Count that was 244 birds (-8.19%) lower than last year. The decline in the number of Golden Eagles on our spring counts continues.

FINAL COUNT (February 15 to May 25)
(Percentage variance from spring 2008 Piitaistakis-South Livingstone count in parenthesis)
[Percentage variance from average complete counts at Mount Lorette 1993-2007 in square brackets]

DAYS 87 (+3.57) [+8.84]
HOURS 993.4 (+1.83) [+14.98]

TURKEY VULTURE (TUVU) 6 (-25) [+592.3]
OSPREY (OSPR) 23 (+9.52) [+19.7]
BALD EAGLE (BAEA) 439 (-3.1) [+99.55]
NORTHERN HARRIER (NOHA) 37 (+32.1) [+280.1]
SHARP-SHINNED HAWK (SSHA) 126 (-36) [+82.08]
COOPER’S HAWK (COHA) 19 (-51) [+2.89]
NORTHERN GOSHAWK (NOGO) 113 (-18) [+251.7]
Accipiter sp. (UA) 4 (-50) [+42.86]
BROAD-WINGED HAWK (BWHA) 8 (+14.3) [+361.5]
SWAINSON’S HAWK (SWHA) 7 (+250) [+854.5]
RED-TAILED HAWK (RTHA) 213 (-6.2) [+357.1]
FERRUGINOUS HAWK (FEHA) 11 (0) [+1550]
ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (RLHA) 26 (+62.5) [+32.2]
Buteo sp. (UB) 2 (-50) [+20]
GOLDEN EAGLE (GOEA) 2737 (-8.19) [-15.19]
Eagle sp. (UE) 2 (-78) [+20]
AMERICAN KESTREL (AMKE) 7 (+75) [+1.94]
MERLIN (MERL) 24 (+33.3) [+127.8]
GYRFALCON (GYRF) 5 (0) [+212.5]
PEREGRINE FALCON (PEFA) 8 (+33.3) [+249.9]
PRAIRIE FALCON (PRFA) 15 (-12) [+324.5]
Falco sp. (UF) 3 (+200) [+275]
Unidentified Raptor (UU) 1 (-67) [-34.8]

TOTAL 3837 (-8.73) [+3.92]

Principal Observers: Peter Sherrington (77 days), Vance Mattson (4 days), Bill Wilson (3 days) and Doug and Teresa Dolman (2 days), with assistance from Keith McClary (39 days), Denise Coccioloni-Amatto (27 days), Phil Nicholas (20 days), Raymond Toal (14 days), Nel Van Kamer (10 days), Doug and Teresa Dolmen (8 days), Peter Sherrington (8 days), Pat Lucas (3 days), Rob Domenech (2 days), Fred Tilley (2 days), Paul Vandervelde (2 days), Karola Michalsky (2 days), Dawn Hall (1 day), Vance Mattson (1 day), Richard Ellis (1 day), Chris and Trish Hunt (1 day), David Thomas (1 day) and Michael Woertman (1 day).

Acknowledgements: To the members and supporters of the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation for their continuing financial support, and to members of the Crowsnest Conservation Society for their support and many contributions to the success of the project. To Dale and Karen Paton who welcomed us to watch from their property near the base of the ridge until the snow melted sufficiently to allow us to watch from the ridge top, and to Denise Coccioloni-Amatto and Nel Van Kamer who generously provided pre-prepared dinners that allowed me more time to sleep than would have otherwise been the case.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

May 24 [Day 86] (Piitaistakis Ridge) The temperature rose to 14C at 1200 from a low at 0800 of 8.5C, but fell to 8C at 1400 as light rain and hail fell between 1325 and 1425 and subsequently rose again to 11C for the rest of the day. Cloud cover ranged from 100-30% mainly altocumulus and cirrus with towering cumulus developing between 1300 and 1430 which appeared to presage a thunderstorm that didn’t materialise. Winds were S light until 1400 when they became moderate NE-E gusting to 35 km/h for the rest of the day, although the upper flow appeared to remain southerly. Raptor movement was sporadic with 8 birds moving between 0818 and 1720, of which 3 were juvenile Golden Eagles. Of note were an un-aged Turkey Vulture at 1555, a juvenile light morph Swainson’s Hawk at 0957 and a juvenile light morph Ferruginous Hawk at 1133 that brought the season’s total to 11, equaling last spring’s count. A Cassin’s Finch singing near the parking area was a first spring record, 2 Fox Sparrows singing near the site represented a new species for the count and 2 Dusky Flycatchers singing by the access trail in the evening were a first record for the season and the 93rd species recorded this spring so far. Tomorrow will be the last day of the spring 2009 count. 12.83 hours (980.9) TUVU 1 (6), NOHA 1 (37), SWHA 1 (7), RTHA 1 (213), FEHA 1 (11), GOEA 3 (2736) TOTAL 8 (3836)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 23 [Day 85] (Piitaistakis Ridge) (Doug and Teresa Dolman) Doug and Teresa allowed me to attend the RMERF Board meeting near Calgary and afterwards I joined them and Keith on the ridge at 1600. It was another pleasant day with the temperature reaching 14.5C and mainly light upslope winds that varied from SE to ENE. Upper winds also appeared to be light as smoke from a controlled burn to the west rose vertically in the air. Cloud cover was mainly altocumulus, less than 10% to noon but then increased throughout the afternoon to 70% with towering cumulus threatening rain after 1700 which mercifully did not materialise. It was again a good and varied late season raptor movement with 17 birds of 9 species moving between 1135 (an un-aged Northern Harrier) and a juvenile light morph Swainson’s Hawk at 1810. The season’s 4th and 5th Turkey Vultures came through at 1143 (a young bird) and 1423 (an adult) respectively, and the 2 Ospreys seen at 1236 brought the season’s total to a record 26 birds. Sharp-shined Hawk movement seems to have run out of steam again with only 1 juvenile bird moving, and the 2 Swainson’s Hawks brought the total to a new seasonal high for the site of 6 birds. All 4 Golden Eagles (2 subadults and 2 juveniles) moved between 1605 and 1657. No new bird species were seen today but a male Rufous Hummingbird at 1820 was a first for the ridge this season, and a Hoary Elfin butterfly seen on the trail to the ridge was the first seen this year. 10.25 hours (968.1) TUVU 2 (5), OSPR 2 (23), BAEA 1 (439), NOHA 2 (36), SSHA 1 (126), COHA 1 (19), SWHA 2 (6), RTHA 2 (212), GOEA 4 (2733) TOTAL 17 (3828)

Friday, May 22, 2009

May 22 [Day 84] (Piitaistakis Ridge) Winds were easterly all day varying from NE to SE and never exceeded 22 km/h, the temperature ranged from 3C to 9C and cloud cover was 10-70% cumulus with cirrus developing after 1900. Despite the upslope winds we recorded 20 migrant raptors of 7 species between1055 and 1824, which is again a good movement for this late in the season. Seven of the migrants were Golden Eagles (1 subadult and 6 juveniles) and the juvenile light morph Broad-winged Hawk at 1241 set a new spring record of 8 at the site for the species. It was also a remarkable day for sightings of water birds. At 1026 a flock of 20 American White Pelicans flew high to the west through the Crowsnest Pass and at 1039 the season’s first Common Loon flew high to the east above the Crowsnest Valley. The season’s second Sandhill Crane soared high above the ridge at 1139 and finally disappeared into a thick cumulus cloud, and at 1416 a flock of 38 Canada Geese flew high to the east above the ridge. Two adult Herring Gulls soaring above the ridge at 1508 were a first record of the species for May and at 1710 a Great Blue Heron soared high above the ridge before flapping off to the ENE providing just the 3rd record of the species for the site. The season’s first Western White was the first butterfly seen on the ridge for nearly a week. Because of the continuing movement of raptors I now plan to finish the count on May 25. 12.67 hours (957.8) BAEA 2 (438), NOHA 1 (34), SSHA 5 (125), NOGO 3 (113), BWHA 1 (8), RTHA 1 (210), GOEA 7 (2729) TOTAL 20 (3811)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

May 21 [Day 83] (Piitaistakis Ridge) Finally a pleasant day on the ridge! The temperature rose to 9C from a low of -0.5C, winds were WNW to W generally between 20 and 40 km/h and cloud cover was 10-70% cumulus and cirrus providing both plenty of sunshine and excellent observing conditions. And there was plenty to look at as raptors took advantage of the near ideal conditions with 45 birds of 10 species moving between 1019 and 1842 with each hour between 1000 and 1800 yielding between 4 and 8 birds. Birds whose numbers had been hitherto conspicuously lower than last year lead the charge with a season high 19 Sharp-shinned Hawks (all juveniles) and 11 Red-tailed Hawks (9 juveniles and 2 birds of unknown age). All 3 harriers were juveniles and the 5 Golden Eagles comprised 1 subadult and 4 juvenile birds. The less common raptors at the site were well represented including a juvenile light morph Broad-winged Hawk, a light morph Swainson’s Hawk of unknown age, 2 juvenile Ferruginous Hawks, and an adult tundrius Peregrine Falcon. A juvenile female Prairie Falcon at 1739 was also considered to be a migrant. Nearly all the birds passed close to the observation point allowing examination of the plumage types under perfect lighting conditions. Tomorrow was scheduled to be the last day of the count but now I shall try to keep it going for a few more days. Nothing fails like success! A Lincoln’s Sparrow seen on the climb to the site was a first spring record for the count and only the second record overall. 12.5 hours (945.2) BAEA 1 (436), NOHA 3 (33), SSHA 19 (120), BWHA 1 (7), SWHA 1 (4), RTHA 11 (209), FEHA 2 (10), GOEA 5 (2722), PEFA 1 (8), PRFA 1 (15) TOTAL 45 (3791)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20 [Day 82] (Piitaistakis Ridge) There was 2.5 cm of fresh snow on the ridge and it was 0C at 0800. The temperature twice fell to -1C during subsequent snow periods and reached a high of 5C at 1400. Winds were W-WNW all day generally gusting 30-40 km/h but reached 70 km/h during snow squalls that regularly moved east over the site from the Continental Divide, some lasting for up to an hour. Cloud cover was 60-100% mainly cumulus and stratocumulus and ridges were obscured during periods of snow. It was yet another pleasant spring day but there was good raptor movement for this late in the season with 13 migrants of 7 species recorded between a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk at 0844 and a juvenile Northern Harrier at 1803. Most birds occurred soon after snow squalls moved off to the east. At 1202 a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk, a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk and 2 adult Broad-winged Hawks (one dark and one light morph) soared together over the ridge before gliding north and soon after a juvenile Northern Goshawk and a juvenile Golden Eagle followed them north. At 1651 the 100th Sharp-shinned Hawk of the season moved north followed 8 minutes later by number 101 but we are still well short of last year’s total of 196. New species for the season were 7 Red Crossbills, and 2 Swainson’s Thrushes which looked like they regretted leaving Cost Rica! 12.67 hours (932.7) NOHA 1 (30), SSHA 6 (101), COHA 1 (18), NOGO 1 (110), BWHA 2 (6), RTHA 1 (198), GOEA 1 (2717) TOTAL 13 (3746)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

May 19 [Day 81] (Piitaistakis Ridge) Early morning fog and light rain began to clear at 0800 and the day’s high temperature was 8.5C at 1000-1100. More rain at 1130 dropped the temperature to 4C and it slowly climbed again to 7.5C at 1600 before snow at 1820 reduced the temperature to 2C by 1900. Winds were strong WSW to W all day, gusting to 76 km/h in the morning and diminishing slightly to gusts of 60 km/h in the afternoon, and apart from a brief clearing to 30% at 1600, cloud cover was generally 70-100% cumulus and stratocumulus all day. In short it was yet another unpleasant day on the ridge. Raptor movement was sparse with 6 birds moving between 1002 and 1645. All birds were juveniles including a dark morph Broad-winged Hawk and a dark morph “Harlan’s” Red-tailed Hawk. 11 hours (920) NOGO 1 (109), BWHA 1 (4), RTHA 3 (197), GOEA 1 (2716) TOTAL 6 (3733)