Mid-October Update from Dan’s Rock
It is hard to believe, but we are over the halfway point for the count season! It has been a pleasure taking part in the morning flight and contributing to a greater understanding of morning flight in this region. I look forward to what the rest of the season will bring! Since my last update, lots of changes have occurred with the migrant species that have been moving down the ridge. The most obvious addition to the flight has been Blue Jay which blew by the 1,000 individual mark within a week of the first migrant being recorded. To date 1,325 of these familiar birds have winged their way past the rock in search of better acorn crops to the south of Maryland.
The very end of September produced some of the best raptor flights of the season. With most of the Broad-winged Hawks already gone, Sharp-shinned Hawks have been the most common migrating raptor at Dan’s Rock with 37 counted thus far. Bald Eagles had a good day on September 27th with 10 different individuals seen throughout the morning. In recent days the first migrating Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks have also been noted. Currently, we are stuck in a pattern of south winds that has not been conducive for raptor migration. I am hoping that when that breaks, the first Golden Eagles of the season will pass the platform on the next cold front.
The warbler flight has also dwindled in the two weeks. Gone are the days of hundreds of warblers and now only Blackpoll and Yellow-rumped Warblers are moving through in solid numbers. The Blackpoll Warbler has one of the most interesting migration strategies of any North American bird. In the fall, individuals that bred in New England and the Maritime provinces make their way to the Atlantic coast where they build up fat reserves, nearly doubling their body mass with their fat reserves in some cases! These tiny birds then wait for suitable winds before embarking on a non-stop flight of 1,700+ miles over the Atlantic Ocean to reach their wintering grounds in South America. A pretty impressive feat for a bird that weighs less than 75 cents worth of quarters.
As mentioned at the start of the blog, there have been a couple of new additions to the daily count since October arrived. White-breasted Nuthatches are an irruptive species (see Jonathan’s write-up about that subject with Red-bellied Woodpeckers) that seem to be making an above-average push south across the Mid-Atlantic this fall. American Robins are beginning to move in noticeable numbers and Cedar Waxwings are once again amongst the most common species day-to-day. Red-bellied Woodpeckers have been a pretty obvious migrant along the ridge, with 31 being tallied on the season. Eastern Bluebirds have been a pleasant addition to the flight, their warbling flight calls are always a treat to hear.
The current weather outlook shows a number of days with winds out of the south here in western Maryland which will probably make for some slower days. Fingers crossed that the winds shift soon and produce some solid flights up at Dan’s Rock. As always, follow along on Trektellen to see what is migrating past the site in real-time!
Thought I would end the blog by including this Black-throated Green Warbler that decided to take a bath by the platform on October 5th. Time will tell if this male will have been the last one I see up here this season.