Friday, February 27, 2015

Slow Down As March Approaches-February-21-February 27, 2015

Saturday Feb. 21-Joe
Sunday Feb 22-Laura
Monday Feb 23-Herb
Tuesday Feb 24-Steve
Wednesday Feb 25-Laura
Thursday Feb 26-Joe
Friday Feb. 27-Hal

Feb 21-3 TV's; 1 Swainson's Hawk
Feb 22-0
Feb 23-1 TV; 27 SW's
Feb 24-16 TV's; 57 SW's
Feb 25-0
Feb 26-0
Feb 27-1 SW

So far our number of Swainson's Hawks observed in February has surpassed the average of 174. This year falls into the fourth spot among 12 years of observation. This month we have counted 224 Swainson's Hawks. Flowers continue to be blooming profusely throughout the valley. White-lined Sphinx Moth and Painted Lady Butterfly caterpillars are munching away at the flowers. We expect very windy conditions through Saturday morning. Rain is predicted for Sunday. Monday or Tuesday could produce a nice migration. Today we spotted a Red-shouldered Hawk and a White-tailed Kite.

WE NEED A NICE USED LARGE UMBRELLA-We are looking for a large used umbrella to use at the hawkwatch. Someone walked off with our old umbrella. We have one now that is moth eaten. Preferably one that can tilt for the angle of the sun would work. However any old umbrella would do.  Let me know if you have one tucked away in the garage, getting dusty. You can contact me at

Evening Watch February 27:
It is very windy as I write this blog account. Twelve Swainson's came in this evening along with 9 Turkey Vultures. They were airborne when the watchers left as it became dark. '

Prediction for Saturday February 28:
With the very windy conditions, it is likely that all of the Swainson's and Turkey Vultures will be up and out of the valley early tomorrow.
Very Near the Hawkwatch-HC
Verbena, Sunflowers, Lupine and other species-HC
Painted Lady Butterfly
Painted Lady Caterpillars Everywhere-HC
Sunset at the Evening Watch Site-HC

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nice Migration Thursday February 19 and Light Migration February 20

Thursday February 19-Joe Hopkins
Friday February 20-Hal Cohen

Thursday-82 Swainson's
Friday-8 Swainson's; 37 Turkey Vultures.

The Swainson's Hawks that roosted at the Date Farm separated into a few groups on Thursday. Some of the hawks descended into the fields. A few appeared to be feeding on caterpillars. Many of the SW's remained in the trees. They began to migrate after 9A. The majority of the SW's flew over Big Horn and DiGiorgio toward the west. On Friday only 8 SW's migrated along with 37 Turkey Vultures. We did have a Ferruginous Hawk roost nearby. Flowers continue to bloom in profusion, attracting White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars.

Remember, you can subscribe to this blog at the bottom of page. Also, you can keep track of the hawks at monthly and scroll down to Borrego Valley Hawkwatch. You can also be placed on the alert list if we see a bunch of hawks descending into the valley in the evening.

Evening Watch: Friday-No hawks reported.

Desert Lily
Yellow Color Morph of White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar-2/20/15-HC
Green Morph-2/20/15-HC
Swainson's Hawks in Eucalyptus Tree-Count Them 2/19/15-HC
Light Intermediate SW-2/19/15-HC
Light Intermediate Joined By a Dark Morph SW-2/19/15-HC
Canadian Air Force Dropping Into Hawk Air Space-2/20/15-HC
Male and Female American Kestrel-2/20/15-HC

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18, 2015-Nice Bunch of Swainson's Hawks Yesterday

February 15-Laura
February 16-Joe
February 17-Steve
February 18-Laura

On Sunday Feb. 15-Laura had one lone Merlin migrate.
On Monday Feb 16-No migrants.
On Tuesday Feb 17-43 Swainson's Hawks migrated.
On Wednesday Feb 18-1 Swainson's Hawk and 3 Turkey Vultures

The season has gotten off to a decent beginning. The Swainson's Hawks on Tuesday gave us a very nice preview for the season. It appears that all of the hawks migrated through Coyote Canyon. Steve found some very interesting regurgitated castings from a Juvenile Redtailed Hawk. We finally have a great wildflower bloom and lots of caterpillars. Perhaps more SW's will be attracted to the caterpillars.

The blog will not be a daily event this season. I will send out alerts when we have a big migration into the valley. You can email me to be placed on the list.

Wildflowers DiGiorgio Rd-2/15/15-HC
California Primrose-HC
Caterpillar on Cal Primrose-HC
Redtail Casting and caterpillar-Steve Bier
Redtail Casting with caterpillar parts-Steve Bier
Turkey Vultures-2/17/15-HC
Swainson's Hawk-2/17/15-HC
Juvenile SW-2/17/15-HC
Dark Morph Swainson's Hawk 2/17/15-HC
Light Intermediate Morph Swinson's Hawk-2/17/15-HC

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Looks like the season has started a bit early. Yesterday, 14 Swainson's Hawks descended into the Roadrunner Club at 4:20P. Today, January 29th the hawks were found roosting on Eucalyptus trees on the north side of Roadrunner. At 11A they were still present. This is the earliest date of observed Swainson's Hawks in the valley. The regualar season begins February 15th. I will update the blog every Friday during the season. I will also send out alerts whenever we have more than 100 hawks coming into town to roost.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Hawkwatch Season Is Now Over! We Finished With One Lone Swainson's-April 15, 2014

This is the final blog for the season. On April 15th we had our last Swainson's Hawk. A full report will be available in fall. We are indebted to the volunteers that spent countless hours scanning the sky from February 15-April 15. Special thanks to the 3 Hawketeers, Wes Hetrick (from Virginia); Rose Leong from British Columbia and Pam Albers from San Diego. Our sharp-eyed returning veterans included: Steve Bier, Hal Cohen, Judy Davis, Joe Hopkins, Herb Stone and Laura Webb. Assistants this year included Richard Yates, Tommy Antel (and Stella). Thanks to several photographers we had some nice photo's. Our official staff photographer Iris Kilpatrick came through with the shot of the season, see below.

In early December we will be searching for new volunteers for the 2015 season. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact me at

The season started and finished on the slow side. However, for several weeks in March we had quite a show. We had great expectations going into the height of the season near the end of March. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate. Exceptionally windy days with huge sand storms might have contributed to our low count near the end of March. Our final count total for Swainson's Hawks was 4,312. Of the 12 years of records, 2014 would rank number 5.

This is the first season that we did not have any feeding activity. There were no caterpillars, grasshoppers or flying ants. Very few of the Swainson's Hawks spent more than a day in the valley. We observed Turkey Vultures every day but the majority of the sightings were of local birds. Only 361 Turkey Vultures were counted. This is the lowest TV count with the exception of 2003 (a partial count season). Strangely as I am writing my comments for the last blog, I received a call from Steve Bier at 4:45P this evening, "There is a large kettle going west over your house". Turns out, they are Turkey Vultures kettling very high and finally streaming out Hell Hole Canyon. There were 66 TV's, equivalent to over 25% of the total TV's we counted this season. And, the TV's flew directly into a thunderstorm! No, we didn't see any rain in the valley!

Here are a few of the many photo's that stand out from the season.
Thanks to the Anza Borrego Foundation and the Anza Borrego Desert State Park for continued support of the Hawkwatch. 
The "Hill", the watchers and Stella in the foreground-Thomas Antel

Last shot of the year from my roof-part of a kettle of 66 TV's-4/18/14
A kettle of Swainson's Hawks-different morphs-HC
Dark Morph SW on a telephone pole-HC
My favorite shot of the year-Rufous Morph Swainson's Hawk with a twig-Iris Kilpatrick
Streaming  Swainson's Hawks-HC
Swainson's Hawks surrounding a plane-Terry Peterson
Evening drop in of Swainson's Hawks-Terry Peterson
And finally, my favorite sunset-HC

Friday, April 11, 2014

Are Swainson's Hanging Around?-Wednesday April 9-11, 2014

Laura, assisted by Joe-April 9
Judy, assisted by Herb and Joe-April 10
Joe, assisted by Judy and Herb-April 11

Migration April 9:
Swainson's Hawks-4
Turkey Vultures-3

Migration April 10:
Swainson's Hawks-4
Turkey Vultures-2

Migration April 11:
Swainson's Hawk-1

April 9-Very hot today-80's-upper 90's. Light wind. A Swainson's Hawk was spotted roosting with TV's at the Roadrunner. I spotted a SW near my home. It appears that some hawks may be hanging around town. Below is a shot of a juvenile SW. April 10-11 once again were very hot days, approaching 100 by 11A.

Evening Watch April 11:
Only one juvenile SW was spotted near the day site. A report of around 30 Swainson's came in at 5P. However we are not sure if these were Swainson's Hawks.

Again, we don't anticipate a big migration tomorrow.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk-Iris Kilpatrick

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Surprise Swainson's Today-Tuesday April 8, 2014

Steve, assisted by Hal and Joe

Swainson's Hawks-79

Very warm today-70's-mid 80's by 10A Wind light from the south with a clear sky. First observation of 9 SW's due south probably coming up from Roadrunner Club. First lift-off at 8:40A. At 9:20A kettles of SW's were observed above the Date Farm and to the southeast. One of the kettles had over 40 SW's. We counted most of the second group of  Swainson's Hawks moving due north along Borrego Valley Road. They exited the valley along Coyote Mountain. We believe that the large kettle probably spent the night further southeast.

Question: What is meant by different morphs? Swainson's Hawks exhibit 3 basic color forms, Dark, Light and Intermediate. There is variety in between these forms. Below are 3 closeup SW's. It is a genetic characteristic and does not change during the hawks lifetime. Data has indicated that western Swainson's Hawks are mostly represented by the dark morph. Our data (Borrego Valley Hawkwatch) has shown a possible departure from the standard of darker western hawks. Using photographs of kettles of SW's we are trying to determine the ratio of each morph type of hawks migrating through Borrego Valley.

Evening Watch:
No apparent migration this evening.

Today we had hawks that roosted much further from our local sites. So perhaps with the calm wind condition the hawks are stopping short of Borrego Valley. If so there could be a late migration around 9:30A tomorrow.

Dark Morph
Light Morph-Iris Kilpatrick
Intermediate (rufous) Morph-Iris Kilpatrick