This past week started out on a high note, with 12 migrating Black Vultures passing overhead on the 15th. Although local individuals of both vulture species still appear frequently around the platform at low altitudes, the migrating individuals have trended towards passing south over the ridges to the northwest of the hawkwatch. In addition to Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks, they are the most numerous raptor migrant at this chapter of the season.
A few Peregrines and Merlins have continued to fly over the platform sporadically. On the 20th, a Peregrine flew directly over the platform high overhead before stooping sharply over the eastern overlook of the hawk watch. It disappeared once dropping below the tree line, but looked to be in pursuit of prey. This sighting was a definite highlight of the week. All Merlins offered only fleeting views, flying low, directly, and quickly southward.
Steady numbers of flocking American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Common Grackles have continued, with robins being slightly higher in number than the preceding week. Other migrant flocks this week have consisted of American Goldfinches, Brown-Headed Cowbirds, European Starlings, House Finches, and Cedar Waxwings.
Although weather has been favorable and mild most of the week, on Wednesday dense fog and precipitation seemed to hamper migration activity. The only migrants seen this day were American Robin and House Finch. The day seemed to hint that the season was drawing to an end. Although the counts on other days were not as low as this one, overall migrant numbers have definitely dropped. Winter residents are settling down in their place, and on most days multiple sparrow species may be seen foraging around the platform. On the 21st, the first two American Tree Sparrows of the season made an appearance, in the same mixed flock as a Fox Sparrow.
The next week will be the last of the fall migration season at the Montclair Hawkwatch. Numbers of migrants should continue to dwindle, and there may be a chance for a few as-of-yet unseen species, such as Snow Goose, Sandhill Crane, and Golden Eagle. Time will tell!