Montclair Hawk Lookout Update, 10/2 – 10/12/21

It is often the case with hawk-watching that the birds seem to be nowhere until they are everywhere.  This is an important concept to remind yourself of, especially when you begin to question why you are spending your third hour sitting in a chair staring at a blank sky.  That is, until the spell is broken, and a kettle of Broad-wings materializes out of thin air overhead, a Merlin rockets up out of the gorge in front of your feet, and you are reminded why it is that you spend hours staring at that blank sky.

This period featured hawks being both nowhere and everywhere.  The hot, southwesterly winds on October 3rd did not bring many hawks, but two beautiful male Harriers flying within minutes of each other right over the platform were a welcome treat.  Rain and fog for the next two days suppressed virtually all the migrants, although I did witness a Common Green Darner dragonfly zip over the watch in a rain shower, proof of the fortitude of these hardy migrant insects.  The bad weather lifted on the 6th, but the birds didn’t really start moving until the 7th, when we had almost non-stop action with accipiters, Broad-wings, and Kestrels moving through in variously-sized groups.  The Sharpies and Coops continued in smaller numbers for the next couple days, along with the odd Red-shouldered, Red-tailed, Bald Eagle, Osprey, and various falcons.  Sunday, October 10th brought more bad weather, with almost nothing flying that day (although Wayne Greenstone put in a good effort and managed to catch a few Sharpies, a Harrier, and a Kestrel before getting rained out).  The following two days were relatively slow and accipiter-heavy, with good northwest winds still eluding us.  One interesting sighting on the 12th was a Broad-winged Hawk that was able to flap and soar despite a profound wing injury that bent its left wing upwards at the wrist at almost a 45 degree angle.  This, along with what looked like protruding bone in the wrist area, left me marveling at how this bird was able to overcome such a severe disability (and presumably pain) and make the push south.

Season Totals:

Black Vulture: 1
Turkey Vulture: 49
Osprey: 195
Bald Eagle: 123
Northern Harrier: 41
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 511
Cooper’s Hawk: 207
Red-shouldered Hawk: 12
Broad-winged Hawk: 909
Red-tailed Hawk: 9
American Kestrel: 230
Merlin: 52
Peregrine Falcon: 45
Unidentified Accipiter: 5
Unid. Buteo: 3
Unid. Falcon: 6
Mississippi Kite: 1
2399 raptors counted

-Cliff Bernzweig