Birding is Better Together: 2023 Corpus Christi Mid-season Update

I was lucky enough to make it down to our Corpus Christi HawkWatch for the annual Celebration of Flight festival this year. Immediately upon arrival, it became clear that this HawkWatch has a community. Corpus Chisti HawkWatch is one of our most accessible sites, being located within a city, which means it is much easier to have regular visitors. But what was particularly special to me is that not just birds migrate through this site; people do, too! Folks from all across the country—from California to Georgia—come every year to see the spectacle that is the peak Broad-winged Hawk flight. Although the festival was plagued with bad weather, the few days before and the week after delivered many times over! I don’t want to steal Daniel’s thunder sharing all the excitement with you, though, so I’ll pass off the rest of the blog to him. 

Rocktober got off to a rainy start this season, but that hasn’t halted our motivation to count more migrating raptors. It’s the time of year when Broad-winged Hawk kettles lessen in magnitude, but hopes that Swainson’s Hawks and Turkey Vultures can take their place to soar among us counters.

But to surmise how we got here to this point would be remiss without mentioning a few very special days on the platform. On August 28th, we experienced an incredible flight of 28,103 Mississippi Kites. Not once slowing down, the birds are now at an all-time season high with 68,861 counted through 10/3—and they are STILL rolling in with a few here and there, well past their peak.

On September 26th and 27th, extraordinary—perhaps unfathomable—flights of American Kestrels and Broad-winged Hawks exploded through the coastal bend at Hazel Bazemore. Both days saw record-breaking totals of kestrels—373 one day and 573 the next—both barreling through and in kettles. Broad-winged Hawks finally got over the hump on 9/26 with a long-awaited 95,012 birds on a day with timid winds. Luckily, they were far from being done, with a mesmerizing onslaught of 226,627 birds shocking us the very next day—that’s over 300,000 birds counted in just two days! Needless to say, we’re having the best year for broadies since 2006 and the best season ever for kestrels—a record set before we even hit October.

If October should continue the recent trends set in seasons past and in the current year, then we should expect to grow already above-average counts for kestrels, Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Osprey, and Northern Harriers. Perhaps the one drawback this season, despite the ongoing spectacle from kestrels, is the somewhat poor year from their larger falcon relatives. Merlins and Peregrine Falcons are both having a fairly substandard season thus far, but we hope to have a few very good days from them here soon. Our first real cold front of the season should hit us by the end of the week, and with it, hopefully, a flurry of birds!

It’s our hope to have loads of people showing up to take part in all the action as well—it’s always better to hawkwatch with friends. So far this season, multiple groups of eager birders from Travis, San Antonio, Houston, and Coastal Bend Audubon Societies have visited the watch—some of whom have been here for those spectacular days mentioned earlier. Some days can be slow, but it’s never a bad day to keep your eyes to the skies!

Of course, the platform experience would not be complete without the teeming diversity of wildlife around the park on a daily basis. Our local doe white-tailed deer has often been leading her twin fawns around the platform, occasionally feeding on the cracked corn local legend Bob Creglow places out for them every morning. Not to be cheated out of a good meal, the local herd of javelina hulks by every morning and has now grown to at least 22 individuals. Bobcats, a helpless raccoon briefly stuck in our trash can, a curious checkered garter snake, and the local Texas indigo snake all serve to keep the days busy.

Lately, the crew has been quite busy with peak migration at the watch, but we make sure to wind down with a few good nights out at local eateries here and there. Friends of the watch, Stuart and Suzanne Warren, even invited us to their rented igloo west of the watch on Lake Corpus Christi one night to indulge in a four-course meal and wrack up their igloo bird list. Next up on the docket is Birds and Beers at a HawkWatch friend’s new bar downtown and the annual Ockploverfest over the weekend at a local brewery. Being just barely on the outskirts of civilization has its perks!

This blog was written by Sammy Riccio, our Communications Manager, as well as Daniel Horton, 2023 Migration Crewmember. You can learn more about Sammy here.

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