As is typical at Montclair, November was the slowest month this season, with the bulk of migrants composed of Turkey Vultures and Red-shouldered Hawks. The latter did not seem to accompany the former as they frequently did in October, but instead, often appeared to materialize suddenly out of thin air, with their distinctive quick flap and forward-swept soaring wings. We had a high count of 68 Red-shouldereds on November 4th, one of which flew directly over the watch accompanied by a young Northern Goshawk for comparison. This was the only Goshawk of the season and a wonderful sighting, but the real spectacles on the 4th were the massive clouds of American Robins and huge, linear flocks of blackbirds that spanned the horizon during the morning hours. The 2 Osprey seen on this day were also the last of the season.
November 6th featured the monthly high for Turkey Vultures (126), along with 3 Sandhill Cranes. This was followed by a period of 12 days during which the most notable feature was the lack of migrants, with the exception of a few small vulture flocks on the 15th and 16th. However, there was no shortage of raptor observation during this time as the suite of “local” birds, including Cooper’s, Sharpies, a male Merlin, at least 5 Red-tails, at least 3 adult Bald Eagles, at least 2 wandering Peregrines, and varying numbers of Black and Turkey Vultures, all made appearances near the watch.
The migration picked up again on the 19th as a cold front swept through, ending the milder weather of the previous weeks. Another, even colder, cold front came through on the 23rd, bringing a decent flight of Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks. The most noteworthy sighting on this day, and perhaps the most amazing sighting of the month, was a female Common Green Darner dragonfly which flew over the watch in 34-degree temperature with sub-freezing wind chill. This was definitely the coldest dragonfly sighting I’ve ever had and a testament to their ability to not only survive freezing nights, but to fly in conditions that would incapacitate almost any other large insect.
The season that began on September 1st with a lone Merlin powering over the watch ahead of a summer rain ended on November 30th, fittingly, with a lone Red-shouldered Hawk shouldering its way just over the trees through a heavy snowfall. Thank you to Melissa Roach, Tom Reed, Brett Ewald, Wayne Greenstone, Alex Bernzweig, Evan Cutler, Carole Hughes, John Traynor, and everyone else at CMBO and Montclair Bird Club who helped make this season possible. Also, a huge thank you and a gigantic hug to the late, great Else Greenstone, who inspired so many of us to keep watching the skies, and who taught us to appreciate the quiet moments on the hawkwatch as well as the exciting ones.