Saturday, September 29, 2007

High Park - Hawk Hill

On my way to High Park to visit Hawk Hill for the High Park Hawk Count for the first time, I was concerned with the weather conditions. After a full-scan, I couldn’t see a single cloud in the sky, there were very low winds, and it looked like the temperature was on the rise. When I stepped off the subway at High Park station, I stepped in a fresh pile of dog excrement and figured the fates were trying to tell me something.

However, upon entering the park, I saw a cloud in the distance and once I finally found Hawk Hill (north of the restaurant, not south like I thought), my initial concerns were unfounded. It ended up being a great day.

At the hawk count, I met Don Barnett, the count leader who promised to sponsor me at the next Toronto Ornithological Club meeting so I could become a member. I also met a handful of other dedicated hawkers whose experience was immediately palpable. To start, we had individual sightings of Red-tails, or tails as they are called at hawk counts as well as a few isolated sightings of Sharp-shinned Hawks, short-form Sharpie. Once more eyes joined the group, we picked up a handful of late Broad-winged Hawks, a couple of Cooper’s Hawks (Coops for short), and a few more Sharpies. The real excitement began when the number of Bald Eagles gradually rose from 5 to 10, to a record-breaking 13 for the High Park count, which was great to be part of (I spotted bird 11). Also, a few Peregrine Falcons made appearances as well as a spattering of Kestrels, more Tails (many juvenile), and a large number of Turkey Vultures (TV’s) later in the day. Around noon, the winds started to shift out of the south and the TV numbers rose significantly while other hawk numbers dropped. While earlier in the day, birds were being pushed against the north shore of lake Ontario, as winds switched, the line of migrants now were flying much farther north and higher in the sky. Cloud cover remained decent throughout the day.

More details as I attend more counts (my next planned trip is Monday before work).

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