Date: 7/31/17 10:22 am
From: Daniel Maynard <dmaynar...>
Subject: Re: [cobirds] Hawks Galore in Wetmore (Custer)
Rich (and Dave),

I too have witnessed what would seem to be the same phenomenon maybe 3-4
years ago. I was driving in the same general area near Wetmore (possibly
Waterbarrel Road, possibly Siloam Road, I just don't remember) when I
noticed (audibly at first) that the road was literally covered in large
green insects. There were so many it was impossible to dodge them. I found
a place to pull off and inspect what I was unintentionally slaughtering.
They looked much like this (though this is a picture from a different time
and place):

[image: IMG_8418.jpeg]

I then noticed that there were Swainson's Hawks perched everywhere around
me, in trees, on fence posts, utility poles, ground, etc. I'd been so focus
and repulsed at all the bugs I was crushing that I hadn't noticed the birds
before. And as I drove further, I noticed more hawks lining the road; I
probably saw more than 200 total. Eventually I passed out of this
slaughterhouse, and as the insects dried up (pun intended), so did the
hawks. There may have been some Red-tails in the mix, but at least 90% were
Swainson's. I'm certain they were feasting on these insects, and I would
guess they were in just this area specifically for the purpose of feasting
on these insects. My entomology skills are zilch, but perhaps Dave can
identify this guy.

Cool phenomenon, though the crunchy drive was actually quite disturbing.

--
Cheers,
Dan Maynard
Denver, CO

On Sun, Jul 30, 2017 at 8:32 AM, DAVID A LEATHERMAN <daleatherman...>
wrote:

> Rich,
>
> I have been spending a fair amount of time on the western part of the West
> Unit of the Pawnee Grasslands this summer tracking the activities of
> loggerhead shrikes. I have seen virtually no Swainson's Hawks. I recorded
> a whopping 1 on each of two 150-mile loops in the last month. Grasshopper
> expert Tim McNary, formerly of USDA-APHIS and now an affiliate of the
> Gillette Museum at Colorado State recently went out to Crow Valley and came
> home with only a dozen or so specimens of hoppers of, I think, four
> species! Tim can usually find that many before he gets out of the car!
> Normally the most commonly impaled object of shrikes are grasshoppers
> (particularly two species, *Xanthippus corallipes* and *Arphia conspersa*).
> This summer, I've maybe seen a total of 10 grasshoppers impaled. I've seen
> 5X that many hoppers impaled in one shrike territory in years past. Very
> few big hoppers this year on the northern prairie. The shrikes have
> compensated by terrorizing herps and various crickets.
>
>
> I have heard the hopper population in southeastern CO is just the
> opposite, at least at present in terms of nymphs. Clouds of them when you
> walk thru a pasture. Maybe there are also good hopper populations in the
> meadows of the Wet Mountains. All the moisture is growing green hopper
> food, i.e. plants. Maybe what you saw is a regional relocation of hawks in
> response to food abundance, sort of like what we're seeing with
> dickcissels. Maybe many of the hawks that normally populate the northern
> plains never made it up here, or maybe had second thoughts once they got
> here and drifted back south, who knows? I do know I had that big number of
> 160+ Swainson's hawks on my Lamar BBS route which was bizarre in my
> experience. I received comments that these were probably mostly young,
> non-breeding birds that just come north to loaf and feed for their first
> independent summer before returning south. Maybe the majority of what you
> saw was this age group. My bet would be the majority of buteos were
> Swainson's, and that they were also somewhat staging for their later
> departure south.
>
>
> Interesting, whatever it was. Thanks for your post.
>
>
> Dave Leatherman
>
> Fort Collins
>
>
> ------------------------------
> *From:* millerrichj via Colorado Birds <cobirds...>
> *Sent:* Sunday, July 30, 2017 12:00 AM
> *To:* <cobirds...>
> *Subject:* [cobirds] Hawks Galore in Wetmore (Custer)
>
> This morning in the fields north of Wetmore I counted over 100 buteos in
> an area of maybe 50 acres. Most were perched on fence posts, a few were on
> the ground. None were flying. They were mixed buteo species. I
> identified Red-tailed, Swainson's and a Harrier. It was private
> property and most were too far away to identify as species, however, they
> appeared to be mostly buteos.
>
> I don't remember ever seeing anything like this before It was almost
> surreal. Why would so many hawks converge on one area in late July?
>
> Rich Miller
> Canon City
>
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