by Caitlin M. Davis
What a difference a year makes!
I’ve landed myself in Boise, Idaho where I’ll be starting graduate school. I wanted to share a photo from last year at the Goshutes, as a reminder that fall migration is beginning. I’ve already spent a few days at Lucky Peak in the trapping blind, and helping with passerine banding. I plan to spend as much time as I can up there this fall, but it is likely that I won’t be able to watch much of the migration. The idea that I won’t be counting raptors at the Goshutes migration sight in eastern Nevada has been very difficult for me to swallow. Especially when my girlfriend is up there trapping and giving me daily updates about the flights. Lucky Peak will help, but it just isn’t the same. I hope all bird people are able to spend loads of time this fall experiencing this phenomenon at their favorite spots. It truly is one of the greatest wonders in life, happening all around us. Lets all pay homage by acknowledging the mass fall movement of the avian world.
Progressively, the daily totals are rising. After a month of counting, the season total has already surpassed 3000. I’ve left the mountain for a day, so I would like to take the opportunity to make a brief report of the season to date. I haven’t the energy or the time to put much into the writing of this post, so I hope poor grammar and diction can be overlooked. Pay attention to the images, as I attempt to convey some of the images of the ridge top raptor migration at the Goshutes.
The highlight of the season thus far has been the Broad-winged Hawks. Six have flown through, and the above photo is the first of the season. This bird is actually a first for me. I had never seen a Broad-winged before. When I noticed the bird, and knew what it was, I could hardly contain my excitement. Hooting and hollering ensued, and I celebrated for minutes following. The western migration of Buteo platypterus was a thing of rumor in the past. It was thought that the bird did not migrate through the inter-west, and did not pass by the Goshutes migration sight. Jerry Liguori was the first to discover that the bird did indeed use the flight line, and many have been counted in the years since his revolutionary discovery. I hope to see many more to come, and am holding high hopes for a dark morph bird in close proximity to the observation point.
I’ve been able to get some amazing photographs from passing birds, many very close and detailed. I am saving the best for a future project, so for now I would like to present some photos that show what it is really like at the sight. Mainly, while watching the migration, the observer gets distant views at birds. Identifying the birds to species, sex, or age can be extremely difficult at times. Jerry Liguori has written two books to aid the observer in this task, illustrating a vast amount of tips and tricks to gleaning positive Identifications from distant specs. These books have become invaluable in my study.
Even better, Jerry has joined me many times at the sight this season. It has been great to have one of the best raptor experts, and arguably the best migration counter, on the ridge to teach me and aid me in becoming a better and more effective counter. I am in intense study of raptor migration, and I am neither overwhelmed or exhausted by this fact. It has been remarkable. My only complaint is that the season will end too soon.
One of my favorite passers-by is Pandion haliaetus, the Osprey. We usually see a few a day, each bird a delight. I have heard of the bird carrying with it a fish, a next meal. I look forward to the day I witness this peculiar behavior myself. Hopefully it is soon, and I am able to get photos.
The evenings on the ridge are dramatic, to phrase it lightly. The long light casts shadows across the mountains, highlighting hills contrasted against dark canyons. Often birds will catch light streaming through deep canyons, lighting up agains the dark hillside. The beauty is indescribable, and so often leaves me with a feeling of peace as my soul settles and I fall upon thoughts of comfort. I am in the right place, doing the best thing, feeling no anxiety, and having zero complaints. I am fulfilled, and for the first time in a long time, I have found a home.