Sunday, March 17, 2013

Black Hawk Reunion

Common Black Hawk(Mangrove subspecies) on Coiba Island, Panama
Almost 2 years ago, I walked around an island with 2 friends.  I was not a birder at this point but enjoyed taking pictures.  We, including 7 other people, were all who lived on this island for several days.  I had a sub-par camera and liked snapping shots of monkeys, crocodiles and birds.  I didn't know what all the names of the birds were but I liked looking at them.  
Now flash ahead to present day. I began looking back on old photos for the above image.  Whispers of a Black Hawk Migration began to surface and I wondered, "Had I seen this bird before? And if so, do they really come up through Arizona??!!" I do not celebrate Christmas, Easter or much of any other holiday.  But I do celebrate something else.....Migration! And apparently so do hundreds of other people!
Excited birders move quickly down the road to watch the CBH migration!  Don't stand on the bridge or you'll be cited by the Tubac Police.  Many of the birders flew the coup and came to the park instead!
During this time of year, birders from all over the world migrate to Arizona as they search for something rare and beautiful like the Common Black and Zone-tailed Hawks.  Today Kathie and I would search for the Common Black Hawk....which isn't so common in these parts! They prefer to fly over riparian areas as they head north.  If you head south to Mexico or Central America, you'll find them everywhere!  But there are several different subspecies.  In my first pic, you see a Common Black Hawk from the Mangrove subspecies which cannot be told apart from the normal Black Hawk.  I found this one near the mangroves on Coiba Island while almost stepping on a croc.
It's not a log.
 That was not so cool.  The shots were cool however:) Do you see him?
 How about now?  Yeah, Tanagers, Vultures, Kingfishers and Black Hawks would have to wait as I moved out of harms way.  Crocs are pretty fast.  I'm not sure he'd find a lot of meat on me but there certainly is quite a bit of fat to chew:)
But back to Arizona.  On this day, both Kathie and I would witness, along with 60 other birders, the great Common Black Hawk migration!  I suppose it's a lot like Christmas for those who like presents with nice surprises.  For me, the best gift of the year came from the shot below.  12 Common Black Hawks took off around 9 AM to the delight of the crowds.  Birders started shouting, "Oh my god, it's a Ferruginous!!!"  "A Cooper's is displaying!"  "Look at all the Vultures!!!" "Did you hear that Larry had to go to the hospital?"  "Theres a Red-tail!!" And drum roll!!!!......"The Black Hawks!!!! The Black Hawks!!!!"  It was like being on Fantasy Island.  Only instead of Tattoo yelling; it was a smaller older lady.  And as quick as the hawks came into view; they quickly disappeared into the big blue Arizona sky.  The crowds began to dissipate.  Only the diehards stayed and got themselves a Zone-tail Hawk!  A good day indeed! But for that one moment, it was exciting to be around all those birders as they waited for the real movie stars to arrive. Those are the rare moments to celebrate!  What a show!
Common Black Hawk
Migration isn't just for the birds.  The butterflies are also showing up again!  The first sign that spring has arrived comes from the Pipevine and Mourning Cloaks!  Here's a Mourning Cloak lazily hanging on a branch like a fairy would in a good fantasy novel. 
Mourning Cloak
If you are coming to Arizona, this is definitely the time to visit.  Crazy things are happening everyday and honestly, it's a bit overwhelming.

The Common Black Hawk migration will be around for another week or so.  The best viewing happened for us at the Ron Morris Park in historic Tubac.
Turkey Vulture
This post comes from 3 different bird observations.  I went to find the Common Black Hawks at Ft. Lowell Park this past weekend in Tucson.  Around 9 AM, lift off happens for many of these birds. So we waited for the show to begin. And while on this day I didn't see any Common Black Hawks, I did find another friendly birder by the name of Molly.  Together we watched 86 Turkey Vultures rise above our heads.  A Kettle indeed.  All I can say is, "Migration. Is. Awesome!"
A Kettle of Turkey Vultures
More to come....


  1. Seeing several at once must be awesome. I found my first 2 of the year on Saturday. Great post with some history as well!

  2. Your hawk migration watching experiences sound fascinating, Chris! The vultures remind me of a funnel cloud when they circle around like that. Almost stepping on a croc...frightening! I find them much creepier than alligators!

  3. beautiful tail feathers on that black hawk! very cool.

  4. What an exciting thing to see Chris!

  5. Wow---how neat. I love seeing the Black Hawk.. I have never even heard of a Black Hawk. That is so neat! Thanks for sharing... Glad you all had such a wonderful, exciting day--with the other birders.

  6. Yes. It. Is! What fun were are having! Great pics and story!

  7. Such a nice addition to your collection.

  8. A fabulous post Chris, with some great images. The croc is a bit awe-inspiring, but the markings on that Common Black Hawk are wonderful.

    Could the title of this post be in any way linked to the band Black Country Communion, which contains some of my favourite musicians? The name has the same sort of ring to it!

    1. I do try to be clever with my post titles:)

  9. Od krokodyla bym uciekała i to szybko. Nie miał by ze mnie zresztą pociechy, bo ważę tylko 50 kilo :). Motyla bym już chciała zobaczyć u nas. Pozdrawiam.
    I would run away from a crocodile, and fast. He had to comfort me anyway, because I weigh only 50 kg :). Butterfly would have wanted to see from us. Yours.

  10. Chris, seeing the hawk migration must really have been cool. The Common Black hawk sighting is awesome. Lucky you! Thanks for sharing your outing and the photos are wonderful. That croc looks scary. I am looking forward to the Spring migration. Happy Birding!

  11. How exciting! I am thrilled this is happening right now in S AZ. We need to get out this coming week! It is a really striking bird!


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