We may have turned the corner and are squarely in the back half of the 2021 fall season, but there is no sign of slowing down at the Cape May Hawkwatch, sponsored by Swarovski Optik! On October 27th a whopping 1,197 migrating raptors were tallied, including 668 Sharp-shinned Hawks. An extremely impressive total that late in month, although anything is possible in Cape May. However, as a whole, the peak numbers and diversity have started dwindling down a bit thanks to the shorter days and cooler temperatures. On the bright side, the last leg of the season also opens the door for a different cast of new and exciting raptors to be observed.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the first Golden Eagle of the season was observed in the middle of October, which was a precursor of things to come. The NW winds on November 1st brought 4 of these majestic beauties down the Cape May Peninsula, the first 4 Golden Eagle day since 2018! Another two were counted for good measure on November 3rd. That brings the season total to 10 Golden Eagles which already beats the entire season total in 2020 and 2019. With nearly another month left in the season, who knows how many Golden’s we will see!
Believe it or not, the 4 Golden Eagles on November 1st weren’t the biggest highlight of the day. A dark morph sub-adult Swainson’s Hawk stole the show and got all the visitors on their feet. Swainson’s Hawks are a rare vagrant from the western part of North America and only seen 1 or maybe 2 times a year in Cape May. This particular bird made many loops around Cape Island and even stuck around for a second day allowing for excellent looks at this elegant raptor.
Putting raptors aside for a second, I wanted to note one particular bird that I haven’t talked about yet this season: White Ibis. If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you may remember I mentioned them quite often in blog posts in previous years. They have not been talked about this year because they have become extremely common! The White Ibis total was 1 in 2018. The total in 2019 was 150. The total in 2020 was 280. The current total so far in 2021 is a gaudy 1,148. Jokingly, I set myself a goal of counting 1,000 White Ibis, a total I didn’t think was possible. Shockingly, the goal of 1,000 has already been surpassed and we still have almost a month left in the season!