Text by Sarah Hecocks
Greetings from the Manzano Mountains HawkWatch! Two weeks in and things are really starting to pick up as far as fall migration goes. As I type the words you’re reading, the cool westward winds whip and blow the canvas of our wall tent that the crew is hunkered down inside, scribbling down the daily count totals. Steve still slathers on the sunscreen daily, which is a sign that the heat is still ever present here in the land of enchantment, but we are already beginning to see the sure signs of autumn— the turning of the Gambel’s oak and New Mexican locust to warm hues of golden yellow and orange, the late monsoonal rains and early sunsets, and all the withering wildflowers, already having sent their seeds out on the wind.
Today, September 10, was our highest count and capture day yet, with 68 raptors headed south, and 6 trapped and admired in the hand. Three of the birds counted today were American Kestrels, which have been the most common migrant we’ve seen yet with a current total of 76. “It’s a real kestrel festival!” as the newest hawkwatcher Danny would say. Other exciting sightings so far include Ferruginous and Zone-tailed Hawks (the latter of which was observed snatching a clark’s nutcracker straight out of the sky!), and several sightings of rare birds for the area including acorn and red-headed woodpeckers, massive flocks of migrating white pelicans, and abnormal amounts of clark’s nutcrackers with 46 being the highest flock we’ve counted (this is all according to our eBird-nerd, Tucker), and of course the increasing flow of our beloved ‘cips, swainies, tails, falcons, harriers, and our first Golden Eagles and Broad-winged Hawks. We’ve even had an early sighting of sandhill cranes, which is supposedly early for them, but nothing is too unusual these days. One of our favorite birds to watch is a local adult Peregrine Falcon, aweing us with its speed, agility, and grace as it dives and swoops low over the forest in the west valley in pursuit of prey. We only cursed it once when it and two other falcons chased an immature peregrine out of our trapping site… Sarah claims she will cry for weeks on end if one is caught on her day off.
Alas, our counters and trappers remain vigilant and excited as ever to carry out the season. We have some excellent folks on the team here, most of which are HawkWatch International returnees. An essential part of our team includes our wonderful volunteers and hosts on our days off, so we want to give a little shout-out to them as well—you guys are awesome! For the rest of y’all, come out and visit! Jessica, and her fluffy pup Zoey, only bite sometimes…
Names mentioned above refer to the five crew members for the 2017 fall migration season at the Manzanos Mountains Hawkwatch site:
Jessica Taylor (6th season with Hawkwatch)
Tucker Davidson (3rd season)
Sarah Hecocks (2nd season)
Danny Erickson (1st season)
Steve Seibel (13th season)