On Wednesday, May 2, three birders from the Kidron area joined me for one last effort to see some raptors. We had tried on April 19, a day that looked perfect but failed to produce more than a handful of hawks. This time the weather was borderline, with light winds from the southwest and 60 percent chance of rain. However, as soon as we got out of the car at Malek Park, on the west side of Conneaut, we saw Sharp-shinned Hawks coming by overhead and off to the north closer to Lake Erie. That was just the beginning of four amazing hours.
Soon we were seeing small numbers of Broad-winged Hawks as well. Many of them were fairly low, “tail-banders” as we call them since one can see the tail bands of the adult birds if they aren’t too high overhead. By the end of the first hour, at 10 a.m., we had already counted 99 Broadwings, 62 Sharpies, and 10 Ospreys. We knew that early May could be peak migration for Ospreys and that was to be the case. They just kept coming until the count reached 51 by 2 p.m. Our old record was 31 Ospreys. We learned later that the hawk-watch site in Ripley, N.Y. totaled 71 Ospreys, second highest in their many years of counting.
Meanwhile all four of us were kept busy counting Broadwings, along with small numbers of Turkey Vultures, Northern Harriers, good numbers of Bald Eagles and lots of Sharp-shinned Hawks. We were also delighted to see a total of seven Peregrine Falcons, most of them taking time to circle as they gained altitude, due to the light winds. Only once in 20-plus years have we seen more than three Peregrines in a day at Conneaut. Ripley, N.Y. has never had more than four in one day.
For all of us the moment we will certainly remember came shortly after noon when a Golden Eagle came directly overhead, gliding by effortlessly. It was an immature bird and unmistakable. Golden Eagles are quite rare at Conneaut, or anywhere in Ohio, and are an experience to treasure.
Around 1 p.m. the wind switched and came around from the north, called an on-shore wind. This always shuts down migration along the lake, as the winds push the raptors inland, away from the lake. We spent another hour trying to find them at several inland sites but only saw a few birds. Still, the day was a great success, with a total of 2,085 Broad-winged Hawks for the day, plus 308 Sharp-shinned Hawks, to go along with the seven Peregrines, 13 Bald Eagles and 51 Ospreys, plus one lone Merlin and 176 Turkey Vultures. There were also small numbers of American Kestrels, Red-tailed Hawks , Northern Harriers and one Rough-legged Hawk. We even saw a lone Sandhill Crane migrating with the raptors, heading northeast with all the other birds.
Meanwhile back home in Wayne and Holmes counties, the warblers and shorebirds are keeping birders busy. The three White-faced Ibis that showed up at Wright Marsh (Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area) were still there as of this writing.
Published: May 7, 2012