Coming into September with only 100 raptors, the other primary Jo Hays hawkwatchers and I were ready to see things heat up. We put in a total of 13 days (51.75 hours) worth of observation time at Jo Hays which resulted in 1888 raptors being counted during the month! Due to the limited visibility at Jo Hays, northwest winds are the ideal wind direction we could hope for, however in September we were plagued with southwest winds.
Despite the wind direction, September is the month for Broad-winged Hawks, and they had to come through no matter what winds were pushing. September 13th was our first big day of the season, when Anna Fasoli counted 167 birds migrate past, 150 of which were Broad-wings. The very next day, Anna and Chuck Widdman had 469 raptors migrate past, 456 were Broad-wings. Numbers dropped to just over 100 on the 15th, but then on the 16th we had our best day of the season, with a total of 574 hawks passing by, of which 527 were Broad-wings. Broad-wing numbers began to drop after that, until the 24th when we had 340 of them migrate past. Of the 1888 birds in September, 1730 were Broad-wings.
Our second most common raptor this month were Sharp-shinned Hawks. We had 46 pass in September. The other nearby hawkwatches are reporting much better numbers of this small accipiter than we are, and I think it has to do with our SW winds as well as our limited visibility at JHV. Hopefully October will be a little more productive for Sharp-shins.
Our third most common raptor this month was again Bald Eagle. Thirty-seven of these beautiful birds passed this month, bringing our season total to 59! Perhaps the best eagle moment this month was on September 13th, when Anna had an adult eagle fly in from the valley and pass over at unbelievably close range (photo below).
In fourth place was Osprey, with a total of 29 migrating past. The 16th and the 26th were our high-count days for this species, each day had 6 fly by. Not far behind was American Kestrel, with 21 counted. Other raptors counted included Cooper’s Hawk (8), Red-tailed Hawk (5), Merlin (2), Peregrine Falcon (2), and Northern Harrier (5). Personally I feel like our harrier count is rather low. September is typically a good month of pushes of juvenile harriers, and we had hardly any. From my past experiences at other hawk watches, harriers seem to prefer flying down the side of the ridge that isn’t being hit by the wind, and so that should have made JHV perfect for them since we had a month of almost entirely SW winds…..hopefully their numbers will start to built through October.
The non-raptor highlight award for this month goes to the Monarch butterfly. We had an amazing 1209 Monarchs migrate past JHV during September, with an incredible day of 424 passing on the 16th! Other non-raptor highlights included many Chimney Swifts, warblers, and the beginning of Blue Jay migration. Dragonflies were also exciting, with 612 shooting past the site. Most were Green Darners and Black Saddlebags.
I would like to thank Chuck Widman, Bob Fredrick, Drew Weber, Tim Schreckengost, Chet and Sue Gottfried, Joe Verica, Nate Fronk, Josh Lefever, Anna Fasoli, Todd Strawser, Jon Kaufman, Ron Crandall, Jim Dunn, and Anne Walker for coming up to JHV at least once during September to help us document the migrating raptors.
If anyone else is interested in volunteering to count migrants at JHV, please refer to this link.
Below is a table comparing what we had migrate past in September 2011, to the totals seen during Septembers from 2002 till 2010. We are doing great this year, with lots of observation hours, and lots of raptors!