Piitaistakis-South Livingstone Raptor Watch Fall 2008

The South Livingstone Raptor Count for the fall migration of 2008 has now begun. First official day of counting began on 25th August 2008. Follow the daily movement of raptors on this blog updated daily by Peter Sherrington.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

November 30 [Day 95] (Bill Wilson) This was the latest date that we have observed on the ridge where the temperature rose to 1C at 1400 from an early morning low of -3.5C, falling to 0C after 1600. Winds were consistently W all day generally 30-40 km/h gusting between 50 and 60 km/h. Cloud cover was a mixture of cumulus, cirrus and altostratus ranging from 5% at 1000 to 95% by the end of the day. The day got off to a good start with 3 Bald Eagles moving at 0807 and with a total of 8 Bald Eagles and 2 Golden Eagles recorded before 0900. Movement then slowed until between 1519 and 1638 during which 10 Bald Eagles and 3 Rough-legged Hawks moved. The total of 32 migrant raptors was the highest count since November 21 and the Bald Eagle count of 25 was the 3rd highest of the season behind counts of 26 on November 2 and October 24. We had planned to make this the final day of the count, but today’s high total and the fact that a northern front was forecast to pass late on December 1 strongly indicated that a good count, especially of Bald Eagles, might be expected moving ahead of the front tomorrow. Despite my best efforts (I was on the phone until 2345) I was unable to secure an observer so today did, unfortunately, prove to be the last day of the fall 2008 season after all. Passerines included 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches (bringing the season’s total to 2,792 birds the vast majority of which were migrants), 2 Bohemian Waxwings, 4 Pine Grosbeaks, 23 White-winged Crossbills and 1 Common Redpoll. 9.5 hours (1027.5) BAEA 25 (466), RLHA 3 (97), GOEA 4 (5209) TOTAL 32 (8238)
November summary We spent a total of 29 (282) days observing during the month (with November 4 the only full day lost to inclement weather), with the days and hours being 9.4% and 14.8% above the 2006-7 average respectively. The combined species count for November of 759 is the second highest at the site but 7.9% below average: the November count in 2006 was 941. The only species establishing a new monthly high count was Peregrine Falcon (2, +300%) although the 3 Sharp-shinned Hawks equaled the count in 2006 (+20%). Rough-legged Hawk (27, +5.9%) was the second highest count for the month, just 1 less than last year’s count, but several unidentified Buteos late in the month were almost certainly of this species. Other species were below average for the month, mainly reflecting high counts in 2006: Bald Eagle 247 (second highest count, -1.4%), Northern Goshawk 23 (-27%) and Gyrfalcon 1 (-81.8%). Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Merlin and (migratory) Prairie Falcon were not recorded this year but have occurred in small numbers in previous November counts, while the remaining species have never been recorded in November. All categories of unidentified raptors were the highest ever for the month reflecting the inexperience of some of the observers: UA 2 (+300%), UB 6 (not previously recorded in November), UE 21 (+950%) and UF 1 (+100%).

FINAL COUNT, AUGUST 25 TO NOVEMBER 30 (variance from 2006-7 average in parentheses)

DAYS 95 (+3.3%)
HOURS 1037 (+6.9%)

OSPREY (OSPR) 27 (+92.9%)
BALD EAGLE (BAEA) 466 (-21%)
COOPER’S HAWK (COHA) 235 (+14.4%)
Unidentified Accipiter (UA) 59 (+15.7%)
Unidentified Buteo (UB) 11 (+175%)
GOLDEN EAGLE (GOEA) 5209 (+5.8%)
Unidentified eagle (UE) 32 (+256%)
MERLIN (MERL) 32 (-11%)
Unidentified Falco (UF) 3 (+20%)
Unidentified raptor (UU) 15 (+42.9%)

TOTAL 8238 (+6.26%)

Principal Observers: Peter Sherrington (59 days), Bill Wilson (14 days), Vance Mattson (10 days), Denise Coccioloni-Amatto (5.5 days), Joel Duncan (2.5 days), Raymond Toal (1.5 days) and Dawn Hall, Doug & Teresa Dolmen, and Nel van Kamer (all 1 day). The Principal Observers were skillfully assisted by Denise Coccioloni-Amatto (24 days), Dawn Hall (11 days), Doug and Teresa Dolman (10 days), Keith McClary (10 days), Raymond Toal (10 days), Nel Van Kamer (7 days), Pat Lucas (7 Days), Karola Michalsky (6 days), Vance Mattson (4 days), Paul Vandervelde (3 days), Joel Duncan (2 days) and Peter Poole (2 days), and many of the other 250+ people who visited the site during the season.

Acknowledgements: To the members and supporters of the Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation for their continuing financial support, and to members of the Crowsnest Conservation Society for their support and many contributions to the success of the project. To the volunteer observers who did a marvelous job of completing the count after October 25 when, because of my wife Barbara’s failing health, I left to join her in Calgary. And to Barbara, my wife of almost 40 years, who died early in the morning of December 27 after living with breast cancer and four subsequent metastases for six and a half years. Without Barbara’s love and support over the last 17 years I could not have given up my original profession to study Golden Eagle migration, there would have been no Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation and so much of what we now know about raptor movement in the Canadian Rockies would likely not have come to light. The debt that we all owe her is uncountable. Thank you, darling Barbara.


February 17, 1997

For today
the snow’s softly deep
and the air’s plumply warm.
This Chinook seems like
very early spring;
the soft pocked ice
the peeking patches of
brown muddy grass.
Dogwoods’ tips gleam raspberry red
by the chalk grey aspen stand.
A dipper slips into the water
and steps back onto the soft bank.
We look along the rocky tops
for journeying eagles,
but for now only the ravens
play there.
A goshawk’s swiftness
catches my eye
as it makes for
a certain branch.
I stand in the snow
and breathe.

Barbara Sherrington

July 29, 1947 – December 27, 2008
November 29 [Day 94] (Bill Wilson) On the Piitaistakis Ridge the temperature only rose to 0C between 1200 and 1600 from a low of -2C, but wind-chills were considerably lower resulting from W winds generally between 30 and 50 km/h gusting to 100 km/h. Early morning cloud cover of 90% altostratus and cumulus thinned to 5-10% after 1100. The high winds were not conducive to raptor movement and only 3 adult Golden Eagles were recorded, all between 0954 and 1044. A total of 46 Snow Buntings in two flocks was the highest ever daily count at the site, and other passerines included 4 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 62 Bohemian Waxwings, 2 Pine Grosbeaks and 1 Common Redpoll. 9.5 hours (1027.5) GOEA 3 (5205) TOTAL 3 (5205)
November 28 [Day 93] (Raymond Toal) Unfortunately, the observer scheduled for the morning shift failed to arrive so the day’s count, conducted at the Valley View site, did not commence until 1200. The temperature was 2C at noon thereafter falling steadily to -4C at 1700, ground winds were N-NE gusting to 30 km/h and appeared to be strong westerlies at ridge level, and cloud cover was 50-100% altostratus and cirrus. Despite the favourable observing conditions only 2 migrant raptors were recorded: an adult Golden Eagle at 1305 and an adult Northern Goshawk at 1335. A Northern Pygmy-Owl sang at 1340. 5 hours (1018) NOGO 1 (245), GOEA 1 (5202) TOTAL 2 (8203)
November 27 [Day 92] (Vance Mattson) Back on the ridge again the temperature rose to -1C from 1300 to 1500 from a low of -4C and W winds initially 20-25 gusting 40 km/h steadily increased throughout the day reaching 55 to 60 gusting 70 km/h by 1700. It was cloudless until 1000 after which 50-80% thin altostratus developed which thickened and increased to 90% after 1400 producing both good observing conditions and a spectacular sunset. The first migrant raptor, an adult Golden Eagle, did not appear until 1338 after which movement was slow but steady until 1642 when the 11th migrant of the day, a juvenile Bald Eagle, flew south. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly an adult Peregrine Falcon that flew south just to the west of the ridge at 1347 producing the latest fall record ever for the species on an RMERF count (the previous latest was November 14, 1995 at Mount Lorette), and raising the count total to 35 which equals last fall’s record RMERF count for the species. Only 3 species of passerine were seen, including 23 Pine Grosbeaks. 9.5 hours (1013) BAEA 6 (441), NOGO 1 (244), GOEA 3 (5201), PEFA 1 (35) TOTAL 11 (8201)
November 26 [Day 91] (Vance Mattson) About 10 cm of heavy snow fell before 1000 after which the ridges slowly began to clear, with the Livingstone Range to the north not fully visible until 1330. Because of the snow Vance decided to view from the Valley View site where the temperature ranged from -2C to 2C, the westerly winds were mainly light (occasionally moderate at ridge level), and the 100% low stratus cloud of the morning quickly cleared to 0% after 1400. The day’s only raptor migrants were an adult Bald Eagle at 1402 and an adult Golden Eagle at 1438. The highlight of the day however was a single Mourning Cloak seen in the afternoon, which was the first butterfly ever recorded during a count in November, made even more remarkable by its being seen flying over snow covered ground with an air temperature of 2C! Probably the intense sunshine that followed the rapid clearing of the cloud cover after 1400 produced enough local warming to put it on the wing. A flock of 5 Wild Turkeys seen on the western flank of the Livingstone Ridge was also a first November record for the species. 9.5 hours (1003.5) BAEA 1 (435), GOEA 1 (5198) TOTAL 2 (8190)
November 25 [Day 90] Nel was the principal observer until 1000 allowing me to drive from Calgary, and we both watched from the Valley View site. Migration and observing conditions were good with the temperature reaching 7C at 1400 from lows at either end of the day of 1C, ground winds were generally W 10-15 gusting to 25 km/h, with ridge winds moderate to strong all day, and a strong Chinook altostratus arch with cirrus provided 60-90% cloud cover producing hazy sunshine all day. The day’s first Golden Eagle moved at 0940, and two more plus a Bald Eagle went south before 1100, but 10 of the day’s 17 migrants were seen between 1505 and 1658 when the last of the day’s 11 Bald Eagles (10 adults and 1 juvenile) was seen. A Northern Pygmy-Owl sang briefly at 0930. 8.75 hours (993.97) BAEA 11 (434), NOGO 1 (243), GOEA 5 (5197) TOTAL 17 (8188)
November 24 [Day 89] (Joel Duncan and Denise Cocciolone-Amatto) The temperature at the Valley View site ranged from -2C to 8C at 1300 falling back to 0C at 1700, ground winds were generally W-SW 15-20 gusting 30 km/h and were moderate to strong at the ridge level, and cloud cover was altostratus, lenticular and cirrus typical of strong upper winds, generally 50-90% diminishing to 10% by 1700, producing good observing conditions. The first migrant Golden Eagle occurred at 0851 and by 1000 5 Golden Eagles had been logged, but the rest of the day only produced 4 more migrants with the last bird, an unaged Golden Eagle, passing at 1520. A single Evening Grosbeak was only the third bird of the season. 9 hours (985.22) BAEA 1 (423), RLHA 1 (94), GOEA 7 (5192) TOTAL 9 (8171)