Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

My birding blog site

  Hawk Watching at Braddock Bay

Published: April 10, 2014
Tags: Life List Happenings, Swainson's Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Barn Swallow, Caspian Tern, Swamp Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, Sandhill Crane, Black Vulture, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture

Well, we tried Braddock Bay again, hoping to do a little better than we did our last trip up there. It's no short hike, so we wanted to get it right. There are so many things to consider, the wind direction being the primary factor.  It's no easy task because winds change all the time - but hats off to Willie; he picked a great day!

On the drive up to the hawk watch, we saw many kettles of Turkey Vultures along the lake. We began to notice hawks mixing in too - so excitement began to build.  A few people were already up on the platform when we arrived and many more came throughout the day. Hawk were, indeed, flying.  The Turkey Vulture count was amazing - over 3,000 of them!  Another extraordinary number was the Sharp-shinned Hawks: 1,036 of those raptors flew over! With 622 Red-tailed Hawks, 67 Rough-legged Hawks, 37 Northern Harriers, 35 Cooper's Hawks, 43 American Kestrels, and 17 Bald Eagles, there was no shortage of things to look at!

I obtained a life bird that day too - a Swainson's Hawk. By the time that beauty flew over, the clouds had cleared and the temperatures had risen so the birds were flying high. I had a fair view of it at best. It was a dark adult and the details were not as clear as I would have liked from that height and in the sun. I'm looking forward to seeing that bird a little closer.

The Swainson's Hawk is a western bird, liking open country. We don't see them too often in New York and most sightings are during migration. It has one of the most variable plumage, with the exception of the Red-tailed Hawk, another Buteo. It only takes a Swainson's Hawk two full years to acquire its adult plumage, while other large raptors take longer.

We had some other nice sightings, including another
adult Krider's intergrade Red-tailed Hawk as well as a dark/rufous Red-tailed, a Black Vulture, a Common Raven, 5 Sandhill Cranes, and, believe it or not, another Snowy Owl!  The owl remained out in the marsh area and visible from the platform pretty much the entire day. That was Snowy Owl #19 for me for the season.  That's nothing like Mike Tetlow, though, who has seen 54 (maybe 55 now) for this season. Amazing! A Broad-winged Hawk was also sighted, but I didn't get a good view of it so I didn't include it on my list. I did see a Purple Martin, my first of the year (FOY) as well as a few other FOYs: Osprey, Barn Swallow, Caspian Tern, Swamp Sparrow, Rusty Blackbird, and the Sandhill Cranes.

On the drive back along the lake, American Kestrels were everywhere. We counted at least 30 of them as we passed them perched on posts, signs, in trees, and wires.
It was incredible.

The only thing we felt we missed that day were sightings of a Northern Goshawk and a Golden Eagle.  We will just have to try again for them!

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Sharp-shinned Hawk (female being held by a bander - she was released immediately after)

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Sharp-shinned Hawk

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1st Year Bald Eagle

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Dark morph Rough-legged Hawk

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Light morph Rough-legged Hawk

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Osprey - nice, low flight from this guy

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Black Vulture - why couldn't the Swainson's have flown this close?!

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Caspian Tern

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American Kestrel

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