Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rochester, more than just birds and I don't mean Garbage Plates and House of Guitars

Bridge to Somewhere -
Thanks to Bridget Watts, Braddock Bay Hawkwatch regular, for the following top tips on places to visit in and around Rochester.

The National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House
Anthony's home in Rochester, now a museum and national historic landmark, was home to the legendary 
American civil rights leader during the 40 most politically active years of her life, and the site of her 
famous arrest for voting in 1872. This home was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association when she was its president (website here).

Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls
Visitor center and sites important to the abolition and suffrage movements, in a charming small town that locals consider to be the model for the town in "It's a Wonderful Life." (Check web site for hours of operation). To get there from the Visitor's Center at Montezuma National Wildlife Center, turn right on routes 20/5 and go SW for 5.3 miles.

Ganondagan State Historic Site
Just southeast of Rochester, New York, in the town of Victor, lies Ganondagan (ga·NON·da·gan), the site of a Native American community that was a flourishing, vibrant center for the Seneca people. Visit this site where thousands of Seneca lived 300 years ago. Includes visitor center, a full-size replica of a 17th-century Seneca Bark Longhouse, and self-guided trails. (Website).

International Museum of Photography and Film and the George Eastman House
In George Eastman's restored mansion in Rochester, a world-class museum of photography. Currrent exhibits include Another America: A Testimonial to the Amish by Robert Weingarten, A World Apart: Photographs of Hasidic Communities in Israel by Pavel Wolberg, XL Portfolio: A Benefit Portfolio Celebrating Large-Format Photography, Of Time and Buildings, presenting the work of several artists who explore the relationship between photographic images of the built environment and our experience of place. (Visit the website here). 

Other things to do when it's dark or raining:
See a movie.  In addition to the usual suburban multi-plexes, Rocheser boasts several venues where you can see mainstream, independent and foreign, and archival films:

The Little Theatre
Rochester's premier "art house" movie theater. Four screens in downtown Rochester, and a cafe, with live music on some evenings. 240 East Ave #100, Rochester, NY 14604 (585) 258-0400 (Website here).

The Cinema Theater
Just south of downtown. An old restored neighborhood theater, comfortable and friendly. Second run movies. Double features for $5.00! ($3.00 for seniors.) Great popcorn. 957 South Clinton Avenue Rochester New York 14620 585 271-1785 (Website here).

The Dryden Theater
At George Eastman House near downtown Rochester. The Dryden Theatre is the Museum’s sole exhibition space for showcasing its unparalleled collection of motion pictures, as well as selections from the world’s other great archives, and premieres of new foreign and independent cinema. 585.271.3361 900 East Avenue Rochester NY, 14607 (Website). 

Listen to live music. 
Besides women's history, photography, film, (and birding!) Rochester is known for being a great place to hear music. For current listings of music, theater, and other events in Rochester, check out City Newspaper's website (here). For concerts at the Eastman School of Music: visit there website (here).

For more things to do in Rochester, link to visitors guide on official Rochester tourism site (website here).

Monday, March 24, 2014

Help Support HMANA's Raptorthon with a fun way to donate

As HMANA’s featured hawkwatcher during our Raptorthon this year, I thought I’d try something a little different.  HMANA’s 40th anniversary conference will be April 25-27 in Rochester, New York, and that is just too exciting an opportunity to let pass. But how can I do a Raptorthon when I’ll be busy at the conference?

So here’s what I’m going to do.  I’m going to count hawks on my drive north to Rochester from my home in southern Pennsylvania on Thursday, April 24.  And, once I get to Braddock Bay, I’m going to spend three hours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, counting with Luke Tiller, Braddock’s regular hawk counter.  Luke and I will take donations right there, and we will split the amount we gather between HMANA and Braddock Bay Raptor Research.  You can support my Raptorthon, someone else’s or start one of your own at  To support my Raptorthon from the Raptorthon page, click on the Donate to a Raptorthon tab and choose Carolyn Hoffman.  Currently, you can also support Braddock Bay and Militia Hill’s Raptorthons at the same link.  

On the drive to Rochester, I’ll be seeing what I can identify from the car, as a way of letting people know you don’t have to sit on a hawkwatch to see hawks.  I just hope the weather cooperates.  Then on Saturday I’ll take a brief break from the conference activities to spend a little time on Braddock Bay’s platform, trying to see as many species as possible in a short amount of time.  I am also hoping that if the weather is uncooperative on one part of my Raptorthon that it will cooperate for the other part.

Would you please consider sponsoring me with a pledge to support HMANA in this our 40th anniversary year?  You can sponsor me for a fixed amount, for a specified amount by the number of hawks I see or by the number of species of hawks that I see.  The money I raise will be used to support HMANA’s regular programs and operations.

I am also planning to Tweet my way north and from atop Braddock’s platform, so you can follow along as I try to see as many hawks as I can.  I’ll be Tweeting at #hmana40 or you can follow me on Twitter at @carolynh07.  You can also come and visit while I’m at the Braddock platform if you’re coming to the conference, which I hope you will attend.  It will be fun!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Migration at Tubac, AZ.

Ron Morriss County Park is an innocuous little clearing along the Santa Cruz River in Tubac, Arizona between Nogales and Tucson. It's basically a playground, dog run and baseball field. But it is one of the best places to see numbers of Common Black-Hawks migrating in spring. Baseball practice and barking dogs accompany the hawkwatcher who ventures here during March to witness this fairly unique migration event.

Turkey Vultures, Swainson's Hawks, accipiters, falcons, osprey and harriers are also seen regularly during the season. While the total number of birds seen each day usually stays on the low side of triple digits, the quality more than makes up for it. Along with the Black-Hawks, Zone-tailed and Gray Hawks are the draw here. The best time of day is usually mid-morning (9-1100) when the birds are getting up from roosting in the lush riparian forest along this stretch of the river.

After watching HawkCount totals reported by counter Peter Collins increase during the second week of March, I packed up the truck and made the 4+ hour trip from Prescott on the 14th. Dusk is often a productive time to visit the park to see birds cruising over the cottonwoods in search of a last bite or a good roost tree. I had only been at the park for maybe an hour when a light buteo flapped quickly out of the trees and started to soar over the ballfield - adult Short-tailed Hawk. This bird has been on the increase in SE Arizona over the last several years, but it doesn't show up at this site very often. A great way to start my visit. While this bird didn't make the count today, it was likely the same bird seen several days later by Peter at the site. A couple of Swainson's drifted over high, an adult Zone-tailed Hawk strafed the treetops and a decent number of Turkey Vultures seemed to have a hard time figuring out where to roost. A lone male Northern Harrier beat a hasty path northward to end the day.

Adult light morph Short-tailed Hawk over Tubac watch site

I arrived at the park the next morning eager for what might happen. This is typically the peak of the Black-Hawk movement, so I hoped for a good flight. Even though the 11 Blacks that went by that morning was a bit less than I had hoped for, it was still an impressive sight to see. They are so distinctive in flight next to nearly anything else in the area (except for Black Vultures). All broad wings and stubby tail. Most of the birds were pretty high as they passed the count site, but with such impressive birds to watch, I don't think many of the birders that congregated at the park were disappointed.
Adult Common Black-Hawk overhead, heading North

The following day birds seemed to come over a bit lower, which made for some great views. A pair of local Gray Hawks kept us on our toes as they would pop into view over the trees and mingle with the other passing birds. A small handful of Zone-tailed Hawks passed by, hinting at greater numbers to come later in the month. I left the site with a grin, both from the birds and from the shared experience with the other folks who showed up to see this unique flight. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

HMANA 40th Anniversary Conference 2014 - Booking now!

Conference Logo - Tiffany DeRidder
We are pleased to announce that booking has now gone live for the HMANA 40th Anniversary Conference, which takes place between April 25-27th in Rochester, NY. You can read more details about the event on our newly launched conference website (link here), book your conference places online (here) or print off a booking form if you wish to send in a booking form with check (PDF here). 

The conference page has lots of excellent information about scheduling, speakers, field trips, lodging and more. Part of the appeal of the event has to be the incredible birding and raptor watching in the area and there is both a page with a map of places to visit (here) and details on the best local hawkwatching sites regionally (details here). These should really help you if you want to make even more of your visit to Western New York than just being there for the conference weekend.  

Attendees and speakers at the 2012 Conference - Julie Brown
As noted in a previous blog post, April 27th is a special day in Braddock Bay hawkwatching history as it is the day that our two record flights occurred in 1987 (hawkcount stats here) and 2011 (hawkcount stats here). Coincidentally the two official counters on that day are the two leaders combining to lead the HMANA Raptor Identification Workshop that will be taking place at Braddock Bay earlier in the month (details here). You can read my recollection of the 2011 flight on my blog (here); I think it nicely captures the excitement of the day.

The event will include tours of BBBO's (songbird) and BBRR’s (raptor) banding stations for those what to get to grips up close and personal with some raptors. Talks by experts in their fields, field trips, panel discussions on tricky raptor ID's, talks on advances in raptor migration tracking, practical advice on how your organization can create excellent educational programming as well as keynote talks from Richard Crossley (of Raptor ID Guide fame) and  Keith Bildstein (Sarkis Acopian Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary).

Braddock Bay Hawkwatch - Luke Tiller
We are adding to the line up regularly on a regular basis and will be posting more exciting details for the event as they become available. To get an idea of what is in the pipeline keep watching this blog and keep an eye on the conference page. To take make sure that you take advantage of our Early Bird Booking you will need to make sure your booking is with us by April 1st.

It's a great opportunity to get together with hawkwatching aficionados and professionals from across the country and beyond. We look forward to seeing you in Rochester in April!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Winter Raptor Survey - Blizzard Raptors – Houtzdale WRS

Dark Rough-legged Hawk - Alex Lamoreaux
Guest Post by Alex Lamoreaux from Nemesis Bird
Earlier today I ran the Houtzdale Winter Raptor Survey in Clearfield County, PA. This 110 mile route meanders through pockets of grasslands, stripmines, agricultural fields, and forests from Tyrone to Curwensville and then up to Clearfield. When we left State College to drive down there this morning it was sunny and calm. About halfway, in Blair County, we spotted an immature dark type Rough-legged Hawk hunting in the median strip and perching in the trees along the road. I quickly pulled over to try for a few photos as it glided past us. I was shooting into the sun, but the bird was close enough to make up for it.
Dark Rough-legged Hawk - Alex Lamoreaux
Once we got down to the beginning of the survey route clouds had moved in and it was beginning to feel like snow. Sure enough within an hour or two it was lightly snowing and the roads were already covered with over an inch. The snow fell harder throughout the day, and the wind picked up a bit. Needless to say, raptors numbers were a little low despite the great habitat along the route. Almost all of the birds we did see were perched in trees and trying to stay warm. We had 5 adult Red-taileds, all perched in trees along the route, 1 adult Red-shouldered Hawk that we inadvertently flushed out of a tree while driving. We had only 1 immature Red-tailed Hawk and it was perching right along the road, hunting and diving into the snow ahead of us. We also had 2 immature Cooper’s Hawks – one flying over the road and perching in a tree briefly, and another perched in a tree above the road. At a bridge over the West Branch of the Susquehanna River we got out to stretch our legs and had a nice fly-by Great Blue Heron and two female Common Mergansers.
Cooper's Hawk - Alex Lamoreaux
You can find out more about HMANA Winter Raptor Surveys be visiting the HMANA website (here).

About the Author
This post was originally posted on Nemesis Bird. You can see more of Alex's excellent photography and read his articles on the Nemesis Bird Blog (link here). If you like raptors and haven't already got Nemesis Bird on your blog reading list add it now!

Alex is currently studying Wildlife Biology at the Pennsylvania State University. Alex is a traveling field ornithologist, most recently working for the Center for Conservation Biology, studying migrant Whimbrel and other coastal birds of Virginia's Eastern Shore. He has done field work across the US on everything from Yellow-billed Cuckoos to Long-billed Curlews.
An avid birder since 8 years old, Alex has since been able to travel not only across most of the United States, but also to Central America and Southern Africa in search birds. Raptors, shorebirds, and warblers are among his favorite groups of birds to observe and photograph.
Alex is obsessive about eBird, combing through the data to help out with Big Days and is also a budding wildlife photographer.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Raptor Bytes - hawkwatching morsels from around the web

Battling Bald Eagles - Steve Beal
Not sure why but these raptor notes seem to be taking on a somewhat themed feel to them. Let's just roll with it shall we?

Eagle Festivals
Mid-winter can be tough on your average raptor enthusiast what with the beginning of spring migration still over a month away. Though there’s winter bird surveys to do (link here), looking for something to really entertain the less fanatical birders in your clan isn’t always as easy. That’s why when I lived in New England I always looked forward to the area's various Eagle Festivals. Even as a hard bitten hawkcounter that has racked up daily flights of almost 100 eagles at Braddock Bay (hawkcount link), it’s hard not to still get excited by any encounter with a Bald Eagle. As anyone who has stood at a hawkwatch with a group of kids, or adults, knows, just one eagle can inspire game changing awe, so when you get the opportunity to share a bunch of them with other people you have to grab it.

Personally I worked on the Connecticut Audubon Eagle Festival in Essex on the Connecticut River for a couple of years and it was quite simply amazing. Though they stopped running the festival a few years back, they still run the eagle viewing boats (details here), and if you've never viewed Bald Eagles from a boat you haven’t lived in my honest opinion! There are also excellent events run on the Hudson River near Croton (details here) and on the Merrimack River in Newburyport and Amesbury (details here). 

What are your favorite winter raptor events? Share them in the comments section or on the link from our facebook page.

Bald Eagle - Steve Beal
Eagle Myths?
I'm sure you've all heard the story that Benjamin Franklin proposed that the Wild Turkey should be the national symbol rather than the Bald Eagle. The truth of the matter is he really didn't. What he did do was complain in a private letter to his daughter, after the eagle had been chosen as the national symbol, that veterans' organizations might be better off using the turkey rather than the eagle (a symbol often used by European monarchies) for their organizations symbols (more here). Thanks to Rick Wright for steering me towards this, his blog has lots of fascinating posts about birds including things like 'Are Bald Eagles really Bald' (link here)!

Eagles in North American Birds
The most recent North American Birds, which is published by the American Birding Association (website here) and available to members for an additional subscription, has an excellent article (here) concerning a possible White-tailed Eagle that was reported from late April at Derby Hill in 1995. Though rejected by the state rare records committee, the sighting has been included in a number of publications on raptors. This most recent paper reevaluates the report referencing important developments in White-tailed Eagle identification. It's a fascinating article and one that is well worth a read. You can also read the original NYSARC (New York State Avian Records Committee) reasons for rejecting the report on their website (here). Worth noting that Derby is one of the sites closest to Braddock Bay, will be one of the conference field trips, and the date almost corresponds to our 2014 conference date (details here)! Not sure we can promise you a repeat of a rarity of that magnitude, but it does show the incredible potential of hawkwatches in the region.

Wild Russian Eagles
Talking of Eurasian eagles, I wonder if anyone else has been catching the rather excellent Wild Russia documentary series that is being aired by Animal Planet here in the US. The Kamchatka episode had some amazing footage I rather enjoyed of dueling eagles. Though this clip doesn't show the best of it, the Golden Eagle tangling with the heftier Stellar’s Sea Eagles was incredible.

Thanks to Steven Beale for the use of the Bald Eagle shots. You can see more of his excellent work on his photo blog (here). 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Who Says Hawk Watches are Just for Hawks?

Matt Wlasniewski and Dave Kruel hawk watch at Hawk Mt.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary photo archives

You spot a speck in your binoculars growing closer by the second. You follow it more closely, realizing it is not a raptor – or even a bird. It shoots down the ridge south and dismembers a butterfly on the wing, feasting on its prize as it continues southbound. For its size, it’s quicker than a peregrine and more powerful than a golden…that’s right, a dragonfly! And if you’re a hawk watcher, there’s no doubt you’ve seen your fair share of them zipping through your field of view as you try to bring that distant raptor into focus.

Hawk watchers now have a unique, new opportunity to assist with an important hemispherical dragonfly migration project that will benefit conservation of this ecologically-important group of insects. This past fall, HMANA partnered with the Migration Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) for a pilot study to get a better understanding of the timing and abundance of dragonfly migration across North America.
 If you’re not familiar with the MDP, it’s a pioneering citizen science-based study of dragonfly migration in North America that was launched by the US Forest Service International Programs and is chaired and coordinated by the Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.

Last year, HMANA and the Xerces Society developed a protocol and monitoring guidelines that were made available for any hawk watchers or any hawk watch site willing to help monitor dragonflies. We began to recruit fall hawk watchers for their help. Counts were set up to collect data in whatever time period was most convenient or possible: watchers counted throughout an entire hour, or performed a shorter, more intensive count (i.e. 5 to 10 minutes) from which hourly totals could be calculated.
Observations were recorded in either daily or hourly format, and included reports of total dragonflies counted, dragonfly species seen, flight altitude and direction, and weather. Observers focused on the five most common migratory dragonfly species in North America – Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), Spot-Winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea), and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Thank you to all who participated! Twenty-one sites reported dragonfly observations to HawkCount this past fall. There were 636 dragonfly observation reports submitted that yielded records of over 11,000 individual dragonflies during the project. Topping the list in numbers of reports were Hawk Ridge with 137 reports of over 1,600 individuals counted, and the Illinois Beach Hawk Watch with 129 reports of over 2,600 individuals in total. Lighthouse Point Hawk Watch takes the cake for tallying the highest number of dragonflies overall: an incredible 3,346 individual migrant dragonflies were counted in just 11 days! This dragonfly migration data has now been submitted to the Xerces Society for inclusion in their dragonfly migration database where trends can be further analyzed.

Calling all Spring Sites! Based on the initial success of this partnership, HMANA is excited to continue participating in the MDP in 2014.We are looking to expand monitoring at spring sites who are willing to participate through collecting observations of timing and abundance of dragonfly migration.  How much you or your site would like to be involved is completely up to you. A hawk watch may designate a special counter just for dragonflies or use current hawk watchers to collect the data. Counts are timed for as many minutes as you can cover – one, five, ten for each hour, or simply whenever you decide to. Estimates of migrant numbers are also accepted (e.g., 500 plus, less than 10, etc.)

If you’re interested in participating in the MDP, please contact Julie Brown ( for more details.  For more information about HMANA's involvement in MDP, monitoring guidelines and protocol, please visit the HMANA website:
Thank you again to all participating hawk watch sites and individuals for making this initial season of HMANA's Migration Dragonfly Partnership participation such a success!