Swainson’s Hawk 3-28-14

Swainson's Hawk over Jacumba 3-29-14

Swainson’s Hawk over Jacumba 3-29-14

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

This raptor, Swainson’s Hawk, migrates each year from its summering and breeding grounds in  northern British Columbia and central Alberta to Brazil and Argentina – a migration of up to 12,000-14,000 miles.  They accomplish this long migration twice a year by riding air currents up to a high elevation and then gliding as far as they can.  The ride up is practically free, the ride down is free.  So they roost at night and rise in the morning with the first thermals – often grouping up with turkey vultures – and taking an elevator ride up.

These birds stream through San Diego County in large numbers – up to 600 or more being seen in Borrego Springs in one day.  Borrego Springs has the highest number of Swainson’s hawk sightings in the US. The flight path that takes them to Borrego is not entirely understood, but its likely that Jacumba is in their general flight path. I suspect that this species is a regular visitor that arrives silently in small numbers in the late afternoon/early evening and has just not been noticed. I do not know if there are any older records for Jacumba, but I found none in a quick search.

Swainson’s once were considered a common breeding species in San Diego County. There are records of breeding (summer residents) from 1877 and up to the early 20th century.

Trent Stanley noticed this bird flying low over my backyard at 7:15 pm on the 28th.  The last bit of twilight was all that lit up the hawk, but the view through binoculars said Swainson’s hawk.  We searched a bit for it, but it was too dark to see much.

The next morning at 9:00 we saw the hawk join the kettle of turkey vultures and take a free elevator ride up to gliding altitude.

 

Also……

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Black-chinned Hummingbird 3-24-14

Here we have an odd-looking black-chinned hummingbird.  The white outer tail feathers and white secondaries are unusual.