In August it looked like the Bake Oven Knob hawk count would beat the record for Bald Eagles but suddenly in early November the number dropped off. There were 220 for the year with the record remaining with 2008 which had 236. August had a count of 70 with a previous August record of 60.
The eagles are really doing great. In 1988 there was one nest in Pennsylvania. Now there are almost 200 nests, said Dan Kunkle, Lehigh Gap Nature Center director.
"It takes five years to be an adult so there are a lot of immatures. Two hundred mating pairs mean there are 400 adults," he said.
The immatures number between 600 and 800 so there are over 1,000 Bald Eagles in the state. The 220 counted is the third highest since records were kept.
Since 1999 there have been Nature Center interns at Bake Oven Knob so there have been more hours put into hawk watching which brought the numbers up.
Kunkle has possible reasons why the record was not broken after it was 10 ahead. August had many rainy days so observation time was lost. The Bald Eagles tend to move more in rainy weather than some other species and could pass the Knob uncounted.
The numbers remained good through October and then died in November.
He changes the terminology. "We did not set the record - the Bald Eagles set the record. We just count them."
Red-tail Hawk count was low. In any given year they are one of the three most numerous. The other two with dependably high numbers are the Broadwing and Sharp- shinned hawks along with the Red Tails. This year their numbers were 8,567, 3,354 and 1,056 respectively..
Kunkle said he has an idea why the Red Tails dropped sharply but does not know for sure. In the early season they use thermals to help with flight. By late November it is cold and windy with few thermals so they use updrafts from the wind hitting the ridge.
"This year its been warm and thermals continued. They don't need the ridge so many may have been too far away to count," he said.
A second reason may be that in November the hawks just migrate far enough to where winter conditions are conducive for wintering. With warmer weather some can stay further north.
The Golden Eagle is a late-season migrant but there was nowhere near a record - 70 this year and a record of 137 in 2003.
Turkey Vultures are the only one that set a record this year with 1,052 compared to 2005 when the record was set at 1,023.
"We had a really good August and September, an average October and lousy November," he said. Bake Oven Knob is on state game lands so when the rifle deer season opens the count has to stop.
It's a real community at Bake Oven Knob. When you sit on a rock all day you get to like each other. When nothing is flying people talk about old flights.
The Peregrine Falcon was endangered and has made a good comeback. However, the Red-shouldered Hawks and Northern Harriers are a source of concern as far as their conservation status. Red Shoulders were less than half of the 10-year average. They are a November bird. The Northern Harriers had only one-third of the 10-year average.
"It is a big conservation story - what happened in November," Kunkle said.
"You can tell how good a flight is by the conversation. When it is about hawks, it's a good day. When they talk of past flights it is not as good because they reminisce. The next lower level is talking about birds in general. The bottom of the list is talk about politics," said Kunkle.