September 11, 2011
Fall Migration Hawk Watches
Well, it's not officially fall yet; but sure feeling like it more and more, and definitely looking like it if you stop and take notice to things going on in the wild world around us.
European Starlings are showing their "winter colors" already turning speckled. Some bird types are starting to flock up, like the Black-capped Chickadees who are making their presence more often to the bird feeders. Also seeing the return of Downy Woodpeckers to the backyard.
And if you visit some of the parks along the lake in the GTA such as Rosetta McClain Gardens in Scarborough, Lynde Shores in Whitby, High Park in Toronto and I would like to know if there are some in Etobicoke or further west as well; you will see small groups of people gathered, with binoculars in hand and maybe some big cameras... they are doing "Hawk Watches".
Funny that they are called "Hawk Watches" when all birds of prey species are being observed which also includes Eagles, Falcons and Turkey Vultures.
Angie and I took part for a couple hours in one at Rosetta McClain Gardens on Labor Day weekend. A great bunch of people doing it and while many of the birds do fly high above... you just can't help but get into it. I anxiously waited what raptors would fly over our heads at any given time. All heading south as the weather slowly changes.
You name it, we saw it... Bald Eagles (young ones when I was there), Osprey, and so many Sharp-shinned Hawks along with Coopers, Red-tails, Broad-winged and Northern Harriers. Throw in American Kestrels and Merlins for good measure. It's a wonder we saw any other birds hanging around while these raptors flew over head.
This is a young Bald Eagle... perhaps a 2 or 3 year old. They don't get the white head until the age of 5.
An Osprey I saw with a fish in it's talons... not taken on this day. But there were a number of these flying overhead too.
A few days later I was at Lynde Shores searching other migrants like Warbler species and Hummingbirds; and was pleasantly surprised to find another Hawk Watch on the go. I witnessed Turkey Vultures, an adult Bald Eagle and some Sharp-shins.
I've never been to the High Park one. Word is they act like it's an exclusive thing, members only, and snub any outsiders. As I said, I have never been, but word from many is the same... strangers and non-professional birders not welcomed.
I guess I do my own Hawk Watch all year long. I am always on the look out for these bigger birds in the area. And I do notice certain times when more are around. But it's all a learning for me too. And while watching so many migrate further south than where we are, I do find many more around the GTA in the colder months. Look at my backyard as an example... it's a blood bath for them Pigeons as soon as the snow falls.
I am in awe to see Bald Eagles flying over me at this time of year. A bird I was fascinated with as a kid, learning of their near extinction back in the 70's, and always dreamed of seeing one.
So, if you happen to be around the lakeshore over the next few weeks, look up above, and you just might see something really big, beautiful and cool that is a bird of prey. It's okay if you aren't certain what species it is, you might want to learn more about them after such a sighting. I know I do.
A Sharp-shin Hawk flying higher up over Rosetta McClain Gardens.
And another of the dozens of Sharpies I saw there. Too far out for a great shot but the more or less silhouette shots are pretty cool. You get the idea of what we are looking at.
Good numbers of American Kestrels were spotted through my time at the watch. Small birds of prey, too hard with my lens, so I am sharing one pic I took near home earlier in the year. The most colorful bird of prey we have!
Even flocks of Canada Geese fly over as they move further south before the weather turns really cold.
And yet other non-raptor species are on the move too. My Baltimore Orioles left almost two weeks ago. But to see such beauties as these is great during migration... a female Scarlet Tanager!
And the Hummingbirds are on the move too! Just females to be seen now as the males left a couple weeks earlier.
More and more Turkey Vultures can be seen over Toronto right now. I really should do a blog on these birds being here... because they really are a tropical bird!
I took dozens of shots but with them so high above, how many silhouettes do you want to see? This one came out pretty good. Debating on the species... Coopers or Sharp-shin?
But with all these migrating species, let's not forget our year round beauties like this male Northern Cardinal.