Autumn Report 2013

So far, the season brought us many surprises. Although we were expecting another peak of Honey Buzzards in the first week of September, we had to be happy with a first season peak day of roughly 68.000. Of course, we knew it would be hard to compete with last year's high, but another higher peak day stayed out and in the end we did not break that record. On consecutive days we had roughly 42.000 (3 September) and 52.000 (4 September)  more, mainly over station one. Now that the majority of the Honey Buzzard migration has passed, we seem to have had a fairly average total of Honeys compared with the previous 5 years.

Visitors and volunteers enjoy the raptor spectacle overhead. Photo by Olivier Dochy.

Visitors and volunteers enjoy the raptor spectacle overhead. Photo by Olivier Dochy.

A record we did break this year, was the amount of rainy days we had in September. We should analyze this properly later-on, but it seemed like half of the month we were sitting in the house due to heavy rain. There were a few sunny days, mostly during the middle of the month and those were very interesting. Numbers were modest, but the variation in species seen was spectacular.

Honey Buzzard migration Batumi. Photo by Eddy Vaes.

Adult female Honey Buzzard. Photo by Eddy Vaes.

A crowded station. Photo by Jasper Wehrmann.

Counters also had to cope with dull moments on station 1. Photo by Clément Rollant.

We have never recorded that many Crested Honey Buzzards in one season, with about 47 individuals recorded until now! We had a new day record of 12 individuals, with eight of them over station 2 on the 17th of September. Definitely the quality of our count volunteers has something to do with this. Part of these big honey buzzards show mixed characters of both Eurasian and Crested Honey Buzzard, and might be hybrids. Enough material for a separate update, soon.

Adult male Crested Honey-Buzzard. Photo by Simon Cavaillès.

Adult female Crested Honey Buzzard 17 Sep. Photo by Jan Lontkowski.

Adult female Crested Honey Buzzard 18 Sep. Photo by Jan Lontkowski.

Adult female Crested Honey Buzzard with juvenile Honey Buzzard. Photo by Dieter Colombier.

Another day that will stick in our memory was the 23rd of september when hundreds of Red-footed Falcons passed our stations. The biggest flock numbered no less then 423 individuals, nevertheless they are not part of our monitoring program, which might be reconsidered after this spectacular amount.

Great show put up by a flock of Red-footed Falcons. Photo by Clément Rollant.

Red Footed Falcon and one Filiep. Photo by Clément Rollant.

In contrast with the modest numbers of Honey Buzzards, the flight of Steppe Buzzards was larger then ever before and shattered all our previous records. A first peak day, after several days of heavy rain, was recorded on the 26th of September. The flight went mainly over station two, with mostly Steppe Buzzards (88.050), and a huge chunk of raptor spec. (61.127) in the far east. There also were good numbers of Black kites (4.564) and various Eagles (1.294), resulting in the second highest day total ever: 159.037  raptors from both stations together!

Impressive flocks of Steppe Buzzard, with a juvenile Steppe Eagle in the middle. Photo by David 'Billy' Herman.

Almost continuous clicking concert on station two on the 26th of September. Photo by David 'Billy' Herman.

We all thought that was it, and the migration would slow down towards the end of our count period. But no, one week later on the 5th of October, after several more thunderstorms, an incredible flight passed our stations of over 104.000 Steppe Buzzards (new day record) over station two and 1.125 Lesser/Greater/Steppe eagles. And strangely, this was a cloudy day with intermittent rain, the majority of the birds passed fairly low. Unseen before!

The next day, the 6th of October was good for a strong eagle flight, with over 2.000 Lesser/greater/Steppe's and a few Imperials Eagles even. And even yesterday, the 8th of October, another flow of migrants came in. The stream of Steppe Buzzards totaled 35.807 and 41.400 for station one and two respectively. The season is clearly not at it's end, yet.

What will the next sunrise bring? Photo by Romain Riols.

What will the next sunrise bring? Photo by Romain Riols.

Please note that not all data has been filtered for double counts yet, and the actual totals might differ from the ones presented in this update. The totals presented here are the sum of all observations from both count stations, and although in most cases the streams were divided between the stations, some of the flocks may have been recorded on both.

The count is about to end next week, on the 16th of October. Shortly after, we will present the full season overview, detailing many more highlights of the season. Stay tuned!

Check more pictures on facebook/batumiraptorcount