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Cape May Hawkwatch Update – October 3rd

We are now entering the prime window for raptor migration. Unfortunately, the weather has been unseasonably warm with less than ideal wind directions. Despite that, some decent flights have occurred in the last 2 weeks. September 21st brought light westerly winds in the AM which produced a good flight of 68 Broad-winged Hawks, 282 Sharp-shinned hawks and 162 Ospreys. September 24th was also a big flight that gave us our season high count of American Kestrel with 242.

Osprey is the most common migrant during this time of year and and often gives spectacular looks as they hunt for fish over Bunker Pond.

Broad-winged Hawks, like this juvenile showing off its classic candle flame wing shape as it migrates over the hawkwatch platform.

As we entered the end of September Peregrine Falcon numbers saw an uptick, as we are in their peak migration window now. Over 30 were tallied on September 29th & September 30th as well as a season high of 54 on October 2nd. A juvenile Peregrine Falcon delighted all visitors as it picked off dragonflies and ate them on the wing over Bunker Pond for multiple days in a row. The coming weeks could produce triple digit Peregrine Falcon counts, so come up and visit the hawkwatch platform!

The absolute best highlight during last week was witnessing this Peregrine Falcon hunt a Merlin straight out from the platform and stoop within feet of my head in pursuit of the Merlin. Here is the last photo I snapped before I hit the deck to get out of the Peregrine’s path!

This juvenile Peregrine Falcon put on a show for all visitors as it snatched up dragonflies off the surface of Bunker Pond. A Common Whitetail dragonfly looks to be on the menu in this photo.

Far and away, the best raptor flight of this period was October 2nd. Despite the hot temperatures, the wind was out of the west, allowing for conducive migration conditions. Over 1,200 raptors were counted. Osprey and Sharp-shinned Hawks made up the bulk of the migrants with 483 and 449 counted respectively.

A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk begins its migration just after sunrise allowing for top notch looks in the morning sunlight.

White Ibis continue to be a constant sight at the platform. Some massive flocks of both adults and juveniles were observed including a single flock of 25 on September 26th and a flock 27 on September 29th. Other non-raptor highlights included the arrival of the now annual Eurasion Wigeon on September 24th and a Least Bittern the same day. Some other fall arrivals included Snow Geese, Parasitic Jaegers & Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Flock of 27 White Ibis migrate over hawkwatch. A new high count for New Jersey!

New Jersey Audubon