Cape May Hawk Watcher's Notes 2003

This year's hawk watcher, Jason Guerard, has these obsevations re: this year's Cape May Point Hawk Watch:

Black Vultures- There were about 50 more BVs this season compared to last. They still seem to be on the rise, almost three times the yearly average of 70. A new record daily high count for BVs on 10/2/03 with 41 counted.

Turkey Vultures- The 1241 counted this season is about 25 more than last year but a couple hundred lower than the yearly average. Still I say that the vultures are really too subjective for the numbers to mean much on a year to year basis.

Osprey- About 60 less osprey this season were counted. I had heard whispers of this species not having had a good breeding season esp. in NJ. This could account for the lower numbers. The alarming part is that this total is about 530 birds lower than the yearly ave. which seems to be the trend for the past four or so years. The last osprey counted this year was on the last day of the count!

Bald Eagles- Not a bad bald year with 178. This is only four less than last season and still over double the yearly average. It would be interesting to compare this to a five and ten year average.

Northern Harriers- Harriers had a kick butt year this season. As is usual the majority were young birds, but there were a very good number of sub-adult and adult males counted this season. I wish I had had the foresight to keep track of this number. The 2421 is almost double last
season count, in fact it has been since 1997 since more harriers have been counted. This season is also almost 700 birds more then the yearly ave.

Sharp-shinnned Hawks- This is the first time sharpies have broken 20 thousand since 1999. The 20,665 is 3500 more than last season but this is still about 8100 less than the yearly average. So the downward trend in this species is still happening. An interstesting note, I am not positive but I would say that there were more adult sharpies and coops this season compared to last?.

Cooper's Hawks- There was a great showing of coop this season. A new record daily high count of coops on 10/13/03 with 570 counted. The 4260 counted this season is about 757 more than last year and a whopping 1900 more than the yearly ave. I believe that Sam Orr said that they actually caught more coops than sharpies this year.

Northern Goshawks- Nothing more to say than it was a dissapointing year for goshawks. This is the lowest season on record for this species.

Red-Shouldered Hawks- This was great season for red-shoulders. The 605 counted this season was 122 better that last season. This is almost exactly the difference of the 121 shoulder flight this season. The count this year is 181 more birds than the yearly ave. Again, there were a good number of adults this season.

Broad-winged Hawks- There was a pretty good flight of broad-wings this season. Given the fact that the Cape only get good numbers when there are good NW wind you would expect that we had pretty good winds this season. As usual the big flight did come on or the day after NW winds. And the counts were far enough apart that they were probably the same birds. The 1926 counted this year is 1474 more than last year and about 900 birds less than the yearly ave. Most of the BWs counted this year were seen in Oct, which as I understand is pretty typical. The last BW counted was on 11/26/03.

Swainson's Hawks- There were 4 swainson's counted this season. The best was the last a beautiful dark juv. which hung around for a few days. This is 3 more than last season and one more than the yearly ave.

Red-Tailed Hawks- Red-tails had a good showing with 1258 this year. This 330 more than last season but over 700 less than the yearly average. I am guessing that the lack of snow cover to our north is the reason. Or could we be seeing the effects of west nile?

Rough-legged Hawks- There were 6 rough-leggs this season. Like the SW there was also one dark juv. This is four better than last season but two better than the yearly ave.

Golden Eagles- Only 9 goldens were counted this season. The yearly ave is 13, so 4 less this season than the yearly and two less than the 11 counted last season.

American Kestrels- Kestrels showed in good numbers. Does this mean that they had a good breeding season? I personally think it just means that there were NW winds at the right time of year. The 7345 counted this season is about 1900 more than last season. The best flight of AKs since 1999. This season count is about 2700 birds less than the declining yearly average.

Merlins- There was a pretty good flight of merlins this year as well. The 1920 is again the best since 1999, about 600 more birds than 2002 and about 280 birds better than the yearly average.

Peregrines- Again the count broke 1000 birds this season. The 1024 counted is only the 5th time that the PG numbers have been above one thou. This season is 27 birds less than last season but 400 birds above the yearly ave. Interestingly enough the 2003 count is very close to 2002 and there were no huge flights of PGs. The peak day was 118. There were many flights of 50-80 PGs in a day.

Total- The 45196 is about 9900 more than last season. Interestingly this seasons count is around 11000 less than the 1999 count and 9400 less than the yearly ave. By far this is the best count in four years. Lets hope it keeps getting better.

Get the Cape May Hawk Watch totals for 2003

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