Craig Fosdick and I have a running joke that any time we go in search of a certain species, we'll often find something even more rare but miss the target bird. Today at the Wellsville Hawkwatch we broke that pattern with a well-planned and fortuitous day of watching migrating raptors.
Perhaps the rarest raptor that has occurred more than once in Cache County is the Broad-winged Hawk. Craig and I knew that we would have to make the steep hike at a very specific time of the year in order to find this species, so we planned a hike for today, September 27th. This is the closest weekend day to the median date of passage of Broad-winged Hawks at this site, according to the reports posted by HawkWatch International online. Still, since an average of only five Broad-winged Hawks are seen each year by these paid full-time observers, we knew our odds were slim. But I was encouraged when I read last night that a Hawkwatch site about a day's flight north of here had its best day ever yesterday, including an amazing five Broad-winged Hawks!
Today Craig Fosdick, Mike Sipos, and I started up the trail at about 8:30 AM. We reached the HawkWatch site at about 11:00 after climbing 3000 feet in 3.5 miles. The migration started slow but picked up rapidly about 1:00, and at about 2:30 we were treated to an immature Broad-winged Hawk flying past! (Photo above.) Within an hour, amazingly, we had seen two more, and the raptors were passing at a rate of about 100 an hour. The Wellsville Hawkwatch site was on its way to its biggest migration day so far this year. When asked if she thought it was a good day of birding, I overheard Audubon Society member Jean Lown (in white hat, below) say that it was, to paraphrase, "a fabulously amazing day," and long-time Cache County birder Reinhard Jockel said that it was his "best HawkWatch ever!" It was great to have a planned bird actually come to fruition, and especially in the midst of such an amazing spectacle of migration.