Text and photos by Casey Weissburg, Corpus Christi HawkWatch crew member
As we move into the meat of September, raptor movement is finally picking up at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch, after a slow start to the season that started August 1. For a few weeks the highest-count species of our early season, Mississippi Kites, was lagging behind and we were hard pressed to explain the staggeringly low numbers. By August 31st, we had counted less than 3,000 of them, when normally we would have seen over 10,000 by that point. Steady and constant winds from the southeast, and numerous very distant western kettles, had us worried that birds were going around us in the West too far to see. However, storms to the northeast of us and across the Midwest gave us hope that our birds were simply blocked off, and the weeks of waiting finally came through for us on September 9th, when thousands of Mississippi Kites poured through in 4-digit kettles that wowed and exhilarated both the counters and the visitors lucky enough to witness the event. In just one day, 9 days after the historic peak of their migration, we almost doubled our Mississippi Kite count, from 5,600 to over 10,107! Our daily total of 4,443 Mississippi Kites is a historic record for us--the highest September count of this species, by 2 to 1!
Interestingly, despite our difficulties with the Mississippi Kites, Swallow-tailed Kites have been migrating in great numbers, with 165 already counted for the season, only a few birds away from being our third best record for this species. While it is past peak for both of these species, we hope and expect we'll see more in the coming weeks as storms blanket the Coastal Bend for the next couple days and hurricanes brew in the Atlantic There's no telling what will show up next!
One small snapshot of a kettle of over 1,500 Mississippi Kites as they streamed overhead on September 9th!