What comes to mind when you think about autumn? For me, it’s hawk watches, confusing fall warblers, and, this year especially, the Passenger Pigeon.
Last year at this time, we profiled Hawk Mountain in Pennsylvania, Hawk Ridge in Minnesota, Bridger Mountains in Montana, and Hawk Hill in California. In this issue, we present birdlists, tips, and maps and directions to four more superb hawk watches. California Condors are seen regularly at one of them, Yaki and Lipan Points, on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our writer is none other than Jerry Liguori, the well-known author of three books about raptor identification.
We started out the year with author Joel Greenberg’s moving look back at the demise of the Passenger Pigeon (“Like Meteors from Heaven,” February 2014). On page 9, we report on new research that suggests the bird may not always have been super-abundant, as is commonly thought. Rather, its population appears to have fluctuated dramatically, and the ups and downs may have played an important but not well-known role in its rapid disappearance.
And “confusing fall warblers” — is this the most famous phrase in all of birdwatching? I think it may be, and with good reason, since pairs of migrants commonly seen at this time of year truly can be confusing. Consider Blackpoll Warbler and Pine Warbler, or Blackpoll and Bay-breasted Warbler, or even Magnolia Warbler and Cape May Warbler.
To separate these species with confidence in the field, you need to know what to look for and then get a good look. But don’t let that keep you from trying. As you can read in the excellent article on page 20 by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle, authors of last year’s instant classic The Warbler Guide, identifying these birds is simpler than you think. You can do it.
Chuck Hagner, editor