The spring raptor migration survey has come to an end. There was a significant drop in numbers this week. We counted 139, with only 18 on the last two days combined. Weather was favorable, so we feel our end date is representative of the bulk of migration. This years total is 2,237. See the table of our 2012 survey is for a comparison.
A season highlight is our count of 36 Swainson’s hawks. Compared to last year this number nearly doubled. The landscape on and around the ranch could be suitable for breeding Swainson’s. Though we have not confirmed a nest, we have seen them on MPG during the breeding season.
It was exciting to see broad-winged hawks, which breed in Canada and are uncommon to see in our area. This year we counted 8 more than last year, with a total of 11 (including one dark morph).
American kestrel and Golden Eagle numbers were similar to last year. Nearly 200 rough-legged hawks flew over the ranch, compared to 167 in 2012.
In addition to raptors, we counted 11,391 migrant birds, representing 53 species. Some of these include:
Canvasback—7 (first year observed at MPG)
Common loon—2 (first year observed at MPG)
American white pelican—43
Gull species (unidentified)—772
This Swainson’s hawk’s flight allowed for a good look. Two-tone wings, which taper to a point, help identify this hawk from others in the Buteo family.
Eric received a B.S. in Resource Conservation from the University of Montana in 2000, and soon after volunteered for his first bird research job in the arctic tundra of Alaska. Afterwards he worked for nine years, mostly in western Montana, on bird-related research projects for the U.S. Forest Service.
In 2010, Eric was hired by MPG Ranch as the Bird Research Technician and now conducts breeding bird surveys, raptor migration surveys, and winter bird surveys, as well as participating in other ranch projects such as owl and raptor banding and community field trips. In his free time, Eric enjoys searching for wild mushrooms, playing ultimate Frisbee, and backcountry skiing.