The morning started slowly as it usually does at the Mount Peter Hawk Watch. The temps were in the low 20s. (This time, I had bundled up in 4 layers of clothing-unlike last time I was leader and I nearly froze my butt off.) I paced the 8 steps each way on the platform scanning the firmament. A lone Vulture criss-crossed the morning contrails. Nothing else was flying.
All around me clouds of Cedar Waxwings bounced from juniper to juniper noshing on berries. A few dozen Robins popped in amidst the Waxwings, hoping to share their tree. Tidy flocks of 20-30 Pine Siskins winked by. A Mockingbird dove into a cedar and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker paused to test a tree before moving on. Four Purple Finches glowed in the strengthening sun like Christmas ornaments hanging from a tree.
A Red-tailed Hawk circled higher and higher above me until it found the invisible highway and took off on a straight shot south. A female Harrier, wings set, followed. As the day warmed, there was an urgency in the air. 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks, a Turkey Vulture, 2 Black Vultures, and 8 more Red-tailed Hawks sped past.
I sipped steaming beef consommé while I continued scanning from north to south them from east to west. Two birders stopped in for a visit just in time to see a Red-shouldered Hawk materialize low flying steadily right over our heads giving us terrific views of tail stripes, red breast and flashing windowpanes.
After lunch, two more birders and one of the other leaders came to lend their eyes. We counted 28 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Bald Eagle, 1 Sharpie and several unidentified buteo and accipiter pepper specks in the next hour. But the prize bird of the day was a juvenile Golden Eagle. What a glorious bird! (worthy of a post in itself.)
By day’s end I had tallied 77 birds. It was a wonderful end to my tenure as hawk watch leader. I will definitely be doing it again next year. Would you like to join us?