Friday, April 18, 2008
Being on vacation offered a perfect opportunity to visit the Onondaga Audubon Society's Derby Hill Bird Observatory in Mexico, NY to view the annual spring hawk migration with Connie O'Brien and Andy Boehm. I forgot the camera but have stolen pictures from the web. It was a beautiful day, and in the first half hour we saw what we'd come for: Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Osprey, Broad-wing Hawks, Red-tail Hawks, Cooper's Hawk, and many, many Turkey Vultures.
It was just a perfect day to sit on a high bluff above Lake Ontario. So when the winds shifted a little and came off the lake, it pushed the birds south and the official counter and most of the observers went to the other site about half a mile away from the lake. We decided to stay put for awhile even though there weren't many birds. We enjoyed our picnic lunch, I had a banjo and played some tunes and Connie even finished a book she's been slogging through. We were rewarded with an Osprey that dove into the lake right behind that tree. Then the real reward came when we moved to the other site and witnessed swarms of raptors coming our way.
When more than 600 Turkey Vultures pass over in a day it's easy to not pay enough attention to notice something different, even for the experts. Fortunately for the experts (all three official counters were there at the time) Andy had a quest to see a Black Vulture. He kept it quiet until he was pretty certain, then brought it to the attention of everyone and it was confirmed. Only the second one spotted this year. He kept saying, "That bird doesn't have a head." But it was the white wing tips that distinguished it from the Turkey Vultures.
I later saw an Osprey that would have gone unnoticed, but lost my credibility almost right away by claiming another one that turned out to be a Rough-legged. Still, there were only six of those counted all day.
Here's how most of the Bald Eagles looked. When they are immature they lack the white head and tail. I missed any mature ones that passed over, but there were so many birds to watch I hope I can be forgiven for missing a few. If you're still reading at this point you're interested enough in the day's official count and can find it by clicking here. We were there on April 16 when the official count was 1710 total.