Saturday, September 27, 2008

Watatic Hawkwatch 9/13 to 9/21

A digi-bin photo of a passing Broad-winged Hawk at Mount Watatic. Lillian and Don Stokes have some nice hawk photos on their BLOG, check the mid September entries.

For the past few years I have taken vacation time to count migrating raptors passing Mt. Watatic in North Central Massachusett, located 1 mile south of the Mass/New Hampshire border. While migration was well under way before I got started on 9/13, I had timed my vacation for the peak of Broad-winged Hawk Migration, typically taking place between 9/10 and 9/23.

My friend's Thom and Sue visited me for the week to help with the count. Thom had begun counting on Watatic back in 1986, he now lives in Maine. Over the course of the week, several folks would visit to help with the count from various points in Massachusetts and Southern new Hampshire.

This "hawkwatcher" was particularly interested in the Broad-wing Hawk flight!
There is no road to the summit, but the hike on the Wapack Trail, a bit over a mile from Rte 119 in Ashburnham, is pleasant and the views at the top are among the best in central Massachusetts. I have included some photos from the watch site, located on what we call the "east summit", a rocky knob about 200 yards east of the main summit.

The View looking North West along the "Wapack Ridge", the 21 mile Wapck Trail runs along the ridge from Rte 119 in Ashburnham to just beyond North Pack just outside Peterboro, NH. For more information of hiking the Wack Trail see this link Friends of the Wapack .
Looking north, Thom working the scope. The highest point, just left of center is Pack Monadnock, were a daily hawk count takes place from September 1 through October 31st, to follow "Pack's results see this link Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory.
The East Summit, as seen from the main summit looking East. Blood Hill is in the back gorund to the right. The smoke is from Thom and Sue burning a smudge stick of white sage, a little Broad-wing "hocus-pocus" . Looking southeast toward Billy Ward Pond, on a clear day you can Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Ma. with optics.
Looking south, Stodge Meadow Pond is to the left, Wachusett Mountain (just right of center), the clearing to the right of the pond is Timber Lost Farm in Ashburnham. Here is a link to the Wachusett Mountain hawkwatch results. The South West view, Little Watatic Mountain with early morning fog coming off Upper and Lower Naukeg Lakes.
The view West South West, the biggest bump on the horizon (to the far right) is Mount Grace.

This hill top affords a great view in nearly all direction, so when the hawks aren't flying we enjoy the scenery and dramas like the one below.

At first I thought the Dragonfly (one of the Meadowhawks) had the spider, but it was the spider that had the upper hand. When you notice stuff like this on a hawkwatch...the birds aint flyin.

Over the week we had a modest start with warm and hazy weather on the 9/13 and flight of 165 hawks, 9/14 was a rain out, 9/15 was very windy with gusts to nearly 40MPH, 9/16 brought us nearly 500 birds, and the 17th over 800.

We hit it big on the 18th with nearly 2,000 raptors passing between 9 and 10AM, the bulk of which passed just west and many close and over the summit. Thom and I divided sky, he taking the west and me the east and Sue tracking birds over head. I while I was busy counting, hulkered down out of the wind, a few dozen here and there I could hear Thom's commentary in the back ground. Finnally he said "take look back here" as dozens and dozens passed close by and 3 kettles of Broad-wings were behind the hill, about 200-300 hawks in each. As happens many times a flight may start with many passing on one side of the hill (today the west) and then switch to the other side (today the east). Between 11 and noon we had nearly 1900 pass, but this time mostly to our east and more distant, expect for the 500 high-flyers that came right over the summit and nearly got missed in the blue sky! We would finish the day with over 5,000 birds, nearly all Broad-wings. Details from the week can be found here: Mount Watatic Hawkwatch.

All the nearby hawkwatches had good days on the 18th, "Pack" had 2500+, Wachusett 3800+ and Barre Falls 4200+. They were all headed to Connecticut...where Quaker Ridge hit the big time" with over 13,000.

I will probably do some more counting this fall and will add to the data base, Hawkcount is good site to look around and check on numberous watch sites in Canada, USA and Mexico.