Cape May Hawkwatch Update – September 19th

Greetings! Jesse Amesbury here, the 2019 Cape May Hawk Counter. You may remember me from 2016 when I was an interpretive naturalist at the hawk watch. Since then I have spent the subsequent two falls counting raptors in the Florida Keys and at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania. It is a dream come true to have my hawk watching career come full circle and be back in Cape May this fall and once again experiencing the magic that makes Cape May so special. I am really looking forward to witnessing some big falcons flight this fall, especially in the late afternoon lighting and hopefully spotting a mega rarity or two.

A Merlin zooms past the platform with a Bobolink for breakfast

Nearly three weeks are in the books this season and it has been a fabulous start. A merlin was the first raptor tallied this season, hopefully a sign of big falcon flights to come. The first few days of the count were a bit slow and consisted of the typical early season migrants headlined by Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk & American Kestrel. After Hurricane Dorian cleared the coast, the weekend of the 7th and 8th finally brought favorable winds and produced the first sizable flights of the season.  We tallied 246 and  157 Osprey respectively. We also recorded the first Sharp-shinned Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk of the season on the 8th. Non-raptor highlights included a Sandwich Tern and multiple flyover White Ibis.

A pair of White Ibis fly over and check out Bunker Pond.

A Sandwich Tern is an uncommon sighting in Cape May and and even more unusual to see soaring over Bunker Pond.

Moving forward to 9/12, which thanks to a back door cold front and a sizable window of NW winds, produced the largest flight of the season. 506 Osprey were counted along with 155 American Kestrel, both of which are still the high count for the 2019 season. The first double digit Peregrine Falcon flight was noted as well.

A Peregrine Falcon migrates over the hawkwatch platform.

A Cooper’s Hawk patrols the shrubs in front of the hawkwatch platform.

A prolonged period of mostly easterly winds persisted for the next few days which limited the flight but we still saw solid numbers of Ospreys with 245 on the 15th and 419 on the 18th. A kettle of 18 Broad-winged Hawks on the 16th coupled with another triple digit showing of Kestrels with 107 was a nice surprise.

Some other non-raptor highlights during the first few weeks included Hudsonian Godwit, Lark Sparrow & Wilson’s Phalarope. You never know what will be seen at the hawk watch, so stop by and say hello!