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Archive for January, 2020

By Jesse Anderson, Pinnacle, NC

Well, it was an outlier of a year for the Hawk Watch at Pilot Mountain. In statistics, an outlier is a data point which differs significantly from other points of data in a given study. Historically, the average count has been about 4,500 migrants, 95% of which were Broad-winged Hawks. In 2019, Pilot Mountain’s hawk watch was presented with an outlier of a year – an all-time low for total numbers of Broad-winged Hawks during our count season – a total of under 500 migrants. Even though few passed, some stuck around long enough for a nice photo!

 A Broad-winged Hawk migrating over Pilot Mountain

A Broad-winged Hawk migrating over Pilot Mountain

At first glance, these numbers may sound frightening; however, Pilot Mountain’s hawk watch wasn’t the only “outlier” in the state. At the other end of the “outlier” spectrum was a nearby count just off the Blue Ridge Parkway where Jim Keighton at the Mahogany Rock Hawk Watch saw over 8,600 migrant raptors. The Story/Lenoir Hawk Watch had an amazing outlier of 8,200 birds in a single day, totaling over 11,000 for the year’s count! And last, but not least, the Mount Pisgah Hawk Watch totaled over 9,200 migrants for the season.

On the positive side, Forsyth Audubon and Pilot Mountain State Park held another Hawk Watch Volunteer Training, in which over 20 new prospective volunteers came to join for a wonderful event where they learned more about hawk identification, behavior, and the procedures for tracking weather data at the Little Pinnacle Overlook!

As noted by Ramona Snavely, founder of the Pilot Mountain Hawk Watch, weather is one of the most influential factors in Broad-winged Hawk migration. In her study, weather had a direct correlation with both the number and diversity of species passing Pilot Mountain. The one critical factor that typically drives high numbers of Broad-winged Hawks past Pilot Mountain is a consistent northwest wind following the passage of a cold front during optimal migration timing – something that just did not occur in a timely manner this year. We do know, whatever the timing of the particular cold front that passed, Lenoir, NC was the place to be. That’s one of the great things about hawk watching, you never know when you’ll be in the right-place-right-time!

For the dedicated volunteer, you never know when a different kind of outlier will make for a special treat, like this beautiful Olive-sided Flycatcher, which paid a visit to the Little Pinnacle for just long enough to strike a pose!

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Little Pinnacle Overlook

Olive-sided Flycatcher at Little Pinnacle Overlook

Until next year, we hope to see you out there, and ‘Keep Looking Up!’

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