Thursday, March 16, 2006

Sandy Hook Migration Watch

The Sandy Hook Migration Watch started yesterday March 15th and counter Calvin Brennan will be at the platform counting everything that flies by until May 15th. A hawk count at Sandy Hook has been in existence since 1979 and in 2003 was expanded to include other migrating birds. The photo above shows a view of the NYC skyline visible from the platform. The photo was taken in early spring, if I remember correctly. Later in the season the dunes are awash in blooming beach plums and migrating warblers.

The counter has a great job, I think, but it must be pretty miserable sometimes out there in the cold, wind, and rain when birds aren't moving. Most groups who are out birding will pay a visit to the platform and often bring snacks to the lonely counter and get an update on what's being seen.

These photos were taken a few years ago during one of the Sunday morning bird walks I like to do at Sandy Hook. We usually meet at 7 am (6 am during May) and go till 1 or 2 in the afternoon, making our way around the Hook. We've been doing this for years, and Ed and I (his photo is there at left) do an awful lot of BS-ing while we bird. He was on the very first *real* bird walk I went on, and was so helpful and friendly. I never felt intimidated as a new birder joining this group and Ed helped me get a lot of life birds. Thanks, Ed!

Mid-April is peak time for migrating raptors at Sandy Hook (4,000 - 6,000 birds of prey are counted in a typical year) and the majority of migrants are Sharp-Shinneds, Cooper's, Kestrels, and Merlins. Rarities include Goshawk (most likely seen in March), Swallow-Tailed Kite (late April), and Mississippi Kite (May). More information, directions, and count stats are available here.

Come on out, bring snacks, we'll be glad to have you!

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