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A “river of raptors” flows through Veracruz State in eastern Mexico during the month of September. In Living on the Wind, Scott Weidensaul describes his experience counting the birds: “Nothing in a lifetime of birdwatching had prepared me for this spectacle,” he says. “As our sense of numbed disbelief gave way to comprehension, we realized we had witnessed – by far - the heaviest hawk migration ever recorded, anywhere in the world.”
Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation.
Counting a Million Raptors Over Veracruz
Featuring Scott Weidensaul
Written by Todd Peterson
This is BirdNote.
[Musical selection from “Tree of Life” by Nancy Rumbel]
In September, a river of raptors flows through Veracruz State in eastern Mexico.
In his book, Living on the Wind, Scott Weidensaul [WHY-den-saul] describes counting the birds there as they circle in “kettles” on columns of rising warm air and then drift steadily south.
“Nothing in a lifetime of birdwatching had prepared me for this spectacle. The kettles grew to almost frightening proportions, twenty or thirty thousands hawks in each one.” Pg. 115
“From two to three o’clock we counted 126,516 broad-winged hawks, nearly 46,000 of them in one ten-minute period. The next hour there were even more…. along with nearly 11,000 turkey vultures….a steady stream of kestrels was moving low along the horizon, passing at a rate of five per minute, their wings flashing in the sun like a thin reflection off the distant Gulf." Pg.116
“And so it went for hours…From our hot, dusty rooftop in Cardel, we had counted more than 435,000 raptors. As our sense of numbed disbelief gave way to comprehension, we realized we had witnessed – by far - the heaviest hawk migration ever recorded, anywhere in the world.” Pg.117
Since that day in 1992 the record has been far eclipsed. Some days more than a million birds have been counted passing through the narrow, vulnerable corridor of Veracruz.
Today’s show brought to you by the Bobolink Foundation. Find a link to Weidensaul’s book at birdnote.org.
“Tree of Life” composed and played by Nancy Rumbel; album Notes from the Tree of Life, Narada, 1995.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2014 Tune In to Nature.org September 2016/2019 Narrator: Michael Stein
Weidensaul, Scott, Living on the Wind, Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds. North Point Press, New York. 1999.