Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tubac Hawk Watch - March 9, 2016

Guest Post by Peter Collins
Ron Morriss Park, Tubac, AZ
8:00am - 4:00pm

The Peak approaches.

The park was awash with birders this morning, including the members of this year's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute's (OLLI) Raptor Study Group. Close to triple digits for birders in the park today.

The skies looked daunting, a solid blue when I arrived. A few clouds from yesterday would be helpful, but the local Chamber of Commerce would have none of that today.

I sat back with the OLLI group as we enjoyed scope views of the local kestrel. We had plenty of time to review hawk IDs, raptor photos and the occasional Vermilion Flycatcher. Nine o'clock arrived with no more than a local Red-tailed Hawk flying.

Empty skies into the next hour. I waved raptor photos to simulate what we were hoping to see. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was joined by a Peregrine Falcon crossing the park providing some binocular tracking practice. We reviewed hawk silhouettes on the back of my HMANA T-shirt. Ten o'clock passed. Nothing.

At 10:02 4 Black Hawks rose north of the park and the gates were opened. By 10:58 12 Black Hawks were counted. Two more passed in the next hour. Four more would would stop in the park at 2:55 and 4:05 for a total of 14 migrants and 4 temporary overnight visitors.

Common Black Hawk by Ned Harris

At 11:15 I was scanning south and locked onto an interesting buteo. Someone called out a caracara to my left, east over the river trees somewhere. I listened to the descriptions without diverting my eyes. I encouraged everyone to get a quick look at the caracara as my target buteo glided towards us and then cried out "Short-tail!" It continued towards us fairly high and straight overhead. Somehow people helped each other locate the bird in the sea of blue, devoid of reference points. We like that bird so much it goes on the migrant list every day it shows up.

Crested Caracara by Ned Harris

Short-tailed Hawk by Ned Harris

The day ended around 6 with two dozen Turkey Vultures and a dozen Black Vultures drifting over the park.

The usual local Cooper's Hawk, red-tails, kestrel, vultures and sharpies and several passes of the Peregrine. Still waiting for our first Gray Hawk.

Migrating Raptors:
Common Black Hawk 14
Short-tailed Hawk 1
Crested Caracara 1
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 22

We're approaching peak Black Hawk Migration over the next week. If you find yourself out along a river drainage in southern Arizona or western New Mexico it's worth a look up to see where other Black Hawks maybe passing through.

NOTE: John Higgins is leading a Tucson Audubon field trip to this location on March 19. Register for that here:

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