September 27, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Hawk watch? Not really...

Responding to an urgent call, I went up to Afton Mountain to help out with the hawk watch this morning. At first, the skies were clear blue, which you might think would be ideal conditions for observing hawks -- but you would be wrong. It's actually harder to keep track of them when there are no clouds to serve as reference points. After a while, Tom Pendleton and a few other nature enthusiasts showed up, but we saw relatively few hawks. We were fortuntate, nonetheless, to see some surprising appearances by other bird species. Today's list:

* The parula (a colorful member of the warbler family) crashed into a window of the Afton Inn, and fell to the sidewalk. I gently picked up the tiny thing, examined it, and then set it down in a safe place with a cup of water. After almost an hour of rest it started to stir, and while we weren't looking it flew away.

** Lark buntings breed exclusively in western states, but a few stray to the east occasionally. None have ever been seen in Augusta County. All I can say is I saw two medium-small black birds with a bluish tint and definite white wing bars; I had them in view for about ten seconds. Another possibility is a Bobolink, but I'm sure I would have noticed the buff colored back side of the head.

UPDATE on hawks:

I just learned from the hawk watch coordinator, Brenda Tekin, that 872 Broad-winged hawks were seen after I left this afternoon. (Jacqueline is extremely dubious of such high counts. ) Also, 30 more Sharp-shinned hawks, five more Peregrine falcons, and a few others. As Homer Simpson would say, "D'oh!"