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Now, I can’t imagine him doing anything like football – only the gentle gestures he uses at Lighthouse. Wrapping his binocular strap around his shoulders like a sash in a quiet nervous tic, then snapping the lenses magnetically to his face for each hawk he sees, each hawk called out by a counter, and each hawk he hears. In his 24th year at the hawk count, Hanisek takes seconds or less to identify any of the hawks at Lighthouse, sharp-shinned being the most common by far.From where he stands, Hanisek is far away enough from most birds that he can only depend on two identification factors: wing beat and silhouette. A sharpie and a Cooper’s hawk, both agile bird-eating raptors called accipiters, can sometimes be impossible to parse.“It’s like being in a candy store,” Frank said, “but you just don’t know what kinda candy.” You might expect sitting to get restless, but counting tends to make those who do it feel obligated to their subjects, as if observing a bird completes a cosmic cycle.
Each bird, called out by one of over thirty birders, was tallied next to the species name along the left-hand margin in the notebook of Greg Hanisek, the head counter on Mondays.
This is where raptors’ migratory highways intersect: a patch of dense woods opening to an amphitheater of cut grass and, farther out, a gentle curve of beach.
Here, the hawk will dart between trees for food before bursting across the harbor and curving southwest. It doesn’t know that on Monday, October 10, 2016, it will be one of 445 known sharp-shinned hawks in Lighthouse Point Park between the hours of and .
Telling them apart becomes a collection of micro-reasons: how far the head juts out, or how strongly they’re blown by the wind. To me, everything looked like a sharpie that morning.
On October 10, the Lighthouse Point Park count recorded 888 raptors under Hanisek’s watch, contributing to a season-total of 7,314. Later that afternoon, the sharp-shinned hawks of the day are turned into points on a graph.
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Steve Mayo, the gap-toothed count coordinator, occupied the more social corner of the count around the picnic table.