Monday, November 2, 2015

Meet the Hawkwatchers - Ryan MacLean - Quaker Ridge

Ryan MacLean and Friend
1/ Tell us a little about your history!
I grew up just about an hour north of NYC in Katonah NY. As a kid I developed a huge love of raptors, taking out pretty much every library book I could that had pictures of them and going to as many raptor centers and falconry shows as I could to watch them up close. Then when I was 10 I went to Mount Peter Hawkwatch in Warwick NY and instantly became hooked on watching them in the wild instead of captivity. I remember it was a late September day (post Broad-Wing season) so it wasn't an epic day numbers wise, but seeing 10+ different species of hawks in their element was enough to blow my young mind. 

A couple years later I discovered that Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich CT was only 15 minutes from where I lived so I started going there pretty much every day after school. Over the next several years I basically received my hawkwatching education by sitting on the lawn there watching and learning. I went to Bard College in Dutchess County NY where I studied music, but I continued to bird very frequently while I was there and always made time to get back down to Quaker Ridge for Broad-winged Hawk season. After I graduated in 2013 Quaker Ridge was seeking a counter (some guy named Luke Tiller had decided to leave and head to California) so I immediately applied and was accepted. 
Ryan MacLean, Ted Gilman, John Hannan, Rosabel Miro at Quaker Ridge
Where are you counting this year?
Three years later I'm now in my third season counting at Quaker Ridge. Each season has had a distinct set of highlights, with my first year having nice Broad-winged Hawk numbers and last year having a record crushing number of Red-Shouldered Hawks (1,046 birds). Our hawkcount page can be found here (link) as well as our Facebook page here (link). Last year I even created an Instagram page for the hawk watch to share some of our great bird photographers' pictures of hawks we see. As of now I think we're only the second hawkwatch to create an Instagram and I hope more do in the years to come. You can view the page here (link).

Tell us what you like most about the watch you are currently at?
The variety and numbers of each species can be incredible at certain times during the season. While some hawkwatches are strictly ridgeline concentrations of birds and others are coastal, Quaker Ridge is really a combo of both since we're at the very bottom of a line of ridges that extends southward through Connecticut and only 6 miles from Long Island Sound. You can get a great push of Broad-Wings and then a late day falcon flight as an added bonus. Over the last few years, we've also experienced an unprecedented increase in Red-Shouldered Hawks. From late October through November we've witnessed almost mini Broad-winged like flights of Shoulders often in kettles of 10 or 20 birds. This makes sitting out in the cold extremely rewarding even late into the season. Since I'm housed on the property during the season I also frequently wake up early to catch early morning warbler flights, which can often be excellent. Even when it's a slow day the hawkwatch lawn is always such a relaxing place to hang out at and the regulars that come out to the watch are a great bunch. We even had a family of bobcats visit us a couple years ago.
Merlin: Quaker Ridge - Luke Tiller
What is it that you especially like about raptors?
To me they're the most free-spirited of all the birds but at the same time the hardest working. Since they're at the top of the food chain they possess this carefree yet determined attitude that always rubs off on me, particularly during migration. They have incredible distances to travel yet thanks to the power of thermals and updrafts they get the joyride of a lifetime from Quebec to Ecuador every year. But at the same time, one misstep along the way could cost them their life. In a way viewing the migration and appreciating it makes you live in the moment and at the same time appreciate that fragility. I was really drawn in to how therapeutic hawkwatching could be but at the same time make you work hard.

What do you like particularly about the world of hawkwatching? The spectacle? The ID challenges? The camaraderie of being at a hawkwatch? The outreach? Something else?
Over the past several years of counting I've really come to love the overall process of identification by impression. At Quaker Ridge we get many very high birds due to our low elevation, which has made me learn to appreciate and acquaint myself with the shapes of the birds at that altitude. Above all it makes a Merlin zipping by you point blank even more jaw-dropping. It also makes you sit and think about the magnitude of just how far the birds are going and how we can possibly bridge communities and cultures in order to ensure their protection after they leave the continent. At Audubon Greenwich we've made connections with numerous Audubon organizations in Central/South America and as a result cooperated together in conservation efforts focused on hawks. 
Olive-sided Flycatcher Quaker Ridge - Luke Tiller
I also love how hawkwatching can be such a universal form of birding since its easy to share with people and get them excited about it. I've seen many non-birder friends and many visitors to the Audubon Center become instantly hooked after viewing a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks or a Bald Eagle. If you spend enough time at a hawkwatch you get to know enough people that it becomes a great social gathering and reunion of sorts each season too. You get excited not only to see the hawks but old friends every fall.

Unfortunately hawks don’t migrate year round. What do you do for the rest of the year?
I spend a lot of my non-hawkwatching/birding time focusing on my other love of music. I play guitar, drums, bass, mandolin and keyboards and write/record my own material with my band Meadowhawks and I've played/studied in many other groups ranging from rock bands, jazz groups and orchestras. My ultimate dream is to have enough success as a musician to tour frequently and bird as much as I can along the way, even using my platform as an artist/performer to make the people aware of issues like bird/habitat conservation that aren't really talked about in the music world. This past year I also worked at Audubon Greenwich's summer camp, which is a great program for kids to learn about and observe nature. Some of the kids that came to the camp are now actually coming to Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch and getting really into hawks, so it looks like the future is in good hands.
Saw Whet Owl: Quaker Ridge - Luke Tiller
If you could go and count hawks anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Last year I had the pleasure of meeting Rosabel Miro, the executive director of Panama Audubon and one of the hawkwatchers at Panama City's Ancon Hill. We were floored to learn that last year they counted two million raptors in one day including a million Turkey Vultures and hundreds of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks and Swainson's. I don't know how I could ever possibly manage to count that many birds but I would absolutely love to go there and witness something like that in person. Cape May, Duluth or Corpus Christi also come to mind since not only are hawks a spectacle at those places but so is the entire bird migration in general. 

What do you like to do when you aren’t watching hawks (or birding)?
If there aren't any hawks to be seen I'm usually out chasing warblers, sparrows, shorebirds, ducks, gulls, butterflies or whatever else is around. I also have a major soft spot for owls and you can easily get me out at 2 AM for a Christmas Bird Count to go owling. When I'm not birding or exploring the natural world I'm usually playing/writing/recording music or going to see concerts with friends. Aside from that I enjoy British comedy, baked goods and hard cider.
Bobcats at Quaker Ridge - Stefan Martin
Do you have a personal blog, website, flickr page etc that we can keep up with your adventures?
You can check out my band Meadowhawks at our website (here) or our bandcamp (website here). I'm always looking to connect with fellow hawkwatchers/birders so feel free to friend me on Facebook as well (personal page here) . I also recently created a facebook group for birders like me in their 20s called '20something Birders' since I feel like birders in our age group haven't really had a place to connect. Its still kind of in the infant stages but hopefully it'll become a fun meeting-place for us college/post-college bird lovers (link here). 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hawkwatching Across The Globe - Georgia (the country!)

Continuing our series introducing HMANA members to hawkwatches beyond the Americas here is a little information about the incredible raptor migration through Batumi, Georgia. With season counts of over a million raptors of thirty different species and day counts of over 100,000 raptors it's easy to see why this site is becoming more and more popular with birders. Thanks to this years count coordinator Aki Aintila for both the accompanying photographs as well as translating his answers from his native Finnish to English for us!

View from Station one - Aki Aintila
1.Tell us a little about your watch.
Our watch is held at two count stations in the north side of Batumi. Count station one is located in the village of Sakhalvasho and Count station two in the village of Shuamta, approximately 3 kilometers apart from each other. We use radio communication between the two stations during the count.

The count season lasts from August 17th until October 16th. Both count stations are manned daily during the season, except for days of really heavy rain and severe thunderstorms. The pilot count was conducted in 2007 and since 2008 we have run the count annually.
We rely on volunteer counters who cover their own expenses (travels, food and accommodation costs). For count coordinators, the project covers their travel and other expenses.

Honey Buzzard - Aki Aintila
2.What is the most numerous raptor species seen at your count?
The most numerous species is the European Honey Buzzard. This season's total in reached almost 590 000 individuals. During the years with the highest counts the season's total can reach over 650 000 individuals. The peak of this migration of Honey Buzzards is in the end of August and beginning of September.

3. What are the most sought after? One of the most sought after species for visiting birders is the Crested Honey Buzzard as Batumi is one of the best spots to see this Asian species in the Western Palearctic. Counters and ecotourists also enjoy seeing Pallid Harriers, Saker Falcons and aquila eagles like Greater Spotted, Steppe and Imperial Eagles.

Black Kite "kettle" - Aki Aintila
4. Do you band (note referred to as "ringing" in Europe) raptors too?
BRC is not running it's own ringing projects at the moment, but we collaborate with other organizations and people. Our fellow organization SABUKO ( runs bird ringing activities, including ringing of small raptors.

5. Do you just count raptors or are you counting other bird species as well? We focus on counting raptors, but we also count some soaring-migrant species (Black Stork, White Stork and Common Crane) and species that are easily detected and provide additional information on the importance of the Batumi bottleneck, like European Roller. We also count high numbers of Bee-Eaters and Swallows if resources allow us to do so, and record interesting observations, like rare species or huge flocks of Herons, Egrets and shorebirds.

No Hunting sign - Aki Aintila
6. What are the goals of your count?
The aims of BRC are in monitoring, research and conservation. 

We are aiming for a long-term monitoring of the raptor populations that cross the bottleneck. We also collect additional data than just numbers of individuals per species, by identifying age and sex classes for many of the species monitored. You can read more about BRC's aims and visions here.

Illegal hunting of raptors in our monitoring area is sadly a major conservation issue. Approximately 10,000 raptors are shot down in the area during every season. Long-term monitoring and data collecting is a crucial approach and together with SABUKO we work for the conservation of the bottleneck and birds that pass through it. You can read more about hunting issues and hunting monitoring results here and here.

Research interests of BRC are on the results of long-term monitoring, impacts of hunting on the raptor populations and impact of weather conditions on migration patterns. Find out more about weather impacts on migration (here). Local flight routes and strategies (here).

Steppe Buzzard - Aki Aintila
7. What is the best time to visit your watch?

The best time to visit the area depends on what one wants to see, since the season can be roughly divided into 3 parts:
1. Peak migration of Honey Buzzards and harriers, last week of August and first week of September. Peak days up to 100 000 birds.
2. Most diverse season is mid-September, during the best days one can see 20 different species of raptors in one day.
3. Peak migration of Steppe Buzzards and eagles in end of September and beginning of October. Peak days up to 50 000 birds.

Counters at Station two - Aki Aintila
All in all, raptor migration in Batumi offers many different rewards for visiting birders. There is the pure enjoyment of the mass migration of birds that is almost beyond imagination during peak Honey Buzzard or Steppe Buzzard migration. The variation of different species, ages and plumage from mid-September onward  poses identification challenges and rewards for the birder wishing to hone their skills with Eurasian raptors in flight. There is also the reward of being able to witness an incredible 30 species of raptors over our season!
Montagu's Harrier - Aki Aintila

8. Can your data be viewed online, if so where?
Our daily count results since 2008 are available on our website, were we upload our count results daily (visit the website here).

9. If visitors wanted to visit your site where should they go to find out more?
Further information for participating in the monitoring or visiting the area as an ecotourist can be found here, details on travel options are here and tour options on arrival are here.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Meet the Hawkwatchers - Erik Bruhnke - Corpus Christi Hawkwatch

All hawkwatches rely on the skill and enthusiasm of their respective counters. Here at HMANA we thought it would be fun to interview a few of the hard working members of the hawkcounting community and ask them everything: from how they found their passion for hawkwatching to what they like to do on their days off. First up in our series Erik Bruhnke who is counting at Corpus Christi Hawkwatch in Texas this season.

If you have a great counter at your site this year who you think deserves a little wider recognition leave a message on the blog post or send us a message and we will send them the interview questions too!

Erik Brunkhe
1 Tell us a little about your history: where did you grow up? What got you in to birding? Did you study ornithology or something similar at college? How long have you been counting hawks? Where have you counted before.

I grew up in a little town of Pewaukee near Milwaukee, WI. I’ve been interested in birds and nature since I learned how to walk. My birding spark moment was when I found a Cape May Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, and Bay-breasted Warbler bathing in an artesian creek just down the road from where I was attending college (Northland College in Ashland, WI). All three of these were life birds and being all new to boreal warblers, this experience got me hooked in a special way. Growing up I’d go on nature walks with my mom, dad, brother and sister on the weekends. Always had my binoculars with me.

I studied biology in college, specifically through a natural resources degree. It was great taking all of the “ologies” which helped establish a special sense of place. I aided teaching field ornithology and ornithology for several years while in college, and I continued to teach field ornithology as an adjunct professor for two additional years after graduating.

The first six fall seasons after college I worked at Hawk Ridge (Duluth, MN) as a count interpreter, and would aid the count on my time off throughout the fall. I have counted raptors for the Duluth spring count for several years. Having moved to Texas last year, this is my first fall counting raptors in Texas.
Broad-winged Hawks - Erik Brunkhe
2 Where are you counting this year? 

I am counting at Corpus Christi HawkWatch. There Facebook Page can be found here (link) and their individual page on is here (link). I love the massive flights of raptors at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch. The kettles of Mississippi Kites and Broad-winged Hawks are spectacular. The occasional Zone-tailed Hawks are a thrill and beautiful treat to see. I’m looking forward to the massive push of Turkey Vultures that I’ve heard about… The daily sightings of Green Jays, Inca Doves, and Olive Sparrows are icing on the cake for this wonderful site.

4 What is it that you especially like about raptors. What turned you on to hawkwatching? What was the first site you visited?

I really enjoy the beauty and identification of raptors. They’re large and their colors and markings are gorgeous from so many angles. Red-tailed Hawks are one of my favorite raptors. They are often overlooked, and their complex array of plumages throughout North America is stunning. Having seen nesting Krider’s Red-tailed Hawks in North Dakota and many forms of Red-tailed Hawks coming through Hawk Ridge (and many birding travels elsewhere), it’s hard not to admire this wonderful species.

I’ve been into hawkwatching since my very first visit to Hawk Ridge (Duluth, MN) during my freshman year of college back in 2003. There was something about seeing Broad-winged Hawks kettling overhead, a new phenomenon I had never seen before. I got to witness one of their many Northern Goshawks in-hand from the banding station. There were miles of colorful aspens and maples mingled through spruce tops as far as I could see, with Lake Superior bracing the slope of this site. My whole first experience at Hawk Ridge was breathtaking, and I couldn’t wait to come back and watch hawks again.
Zone-tailed Hawk - Erik Bruhnke
5 What do you like particularly about the world of hawkwatching? The spectacle? The ID challenges? The camaraderie of being at a hawkwatch? The outreach? Something else?

I enjoy the solitude, the beauty witnessed, and pleasant challenge of hawkwatching. Hawkwatching has plenty of fast-paced moments where the birds are streaming and zipping by, and hawkwatching also is filled with many moments of soaring birds in the distance and overhead, allowing for careful study and appreciation of each bird. The spectacle of raptor migration is simply incredible. Raptors do something that other non-raptors don’t. I love all birds, and raptors as a whole are quite unique.

Hawkwatching is like a treasure hunt. As we watch raptors more and more, we learn about subtleties that makes each raptor species that-species. Studying the behavior, structure, and form of each bird that flies by puts a smile on my face, and it’s great to be in the presence of other people who smile and understand the hawkwatching addiction as the migrating raptors fly by. There is something to be said as well, about hawkwatching at hawkwatching sites. Areas like this are great for networking with other people who understand the world or hawkwatching, whether it be a profession or hobby. It’s also a great teaching opportunity to point out birds to friends and others in the area, to share the excitement of the migration.
Corpus Christi Hummingbird Feeders - Erik Bruhnke
6 Unfortunately hawks don’t migrate year round. What do you do for the rest of the year?

I run my own birding tour business, Naturally Avian. I also lead birding tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. Throughout the latter half of each year I lead Texas Pelagic trips that depart from South Padre Island, TX. When I’m not leading birding tours I work regularly at Quinta Mazatlan, one of the World Birding Centers in McAllen, TX. I write periodically for birding magazines and enjoy speaking and leading trips at birding festivals. I’m a part-time bird photographer too.

7 If you could go and count hawks anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I have a few answers…

First off, I’d love to visit Gunsight Pass (Alaska) someday. Red-tailed Hawks are one of my favorite birds, and I think it would be thrilling to partake in the cool, refreshing elements up there while seeing Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawks among the many northern raptor and non-raptor species. Big raptors are great! Snow is fantastic too.

It would be fun to visit the River of Raptors in Veracruz some day. Having spent this season counting at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch, I have a feel for the massive lines of raptors and what it is like to count them. I think it would be interesting to see the masses of birds moving through in a different setting too. Every hawkwatch has its charm, and Veracruz is on the bucket list.

To a site I’ve worked at before, I have to say it would be great to visit Hawk Ridge (Duluth, MN) again. I love the powerful changing of the seasons, with the sights, sounds, smells and temperatures varying from day to day. The flight of Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles and boreal birds all-round is quite a spectacle.
Harris's Hawk - Erik Bruhnke
8 What do you like to do when you aren’t watching hawks (or birding)?

I enjoy cooking and baking. Camping and long hikes hit the spot too. It’s fun to sketch birds. When the outside conditions are right, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are great. I’m a fan of craft beer as well, and enjoy a good pint while reading bird books.

9 Do you have a personal blog, website, flickr page etc that we can keep up with your adventures?

For Facebook, friend me! I use my personal Facebook page to post pictures and birding-related matters daily. I also have a Naturally Avian Facebook page too. My business website Naturally Avian can be found here (link), and you can find the trips and tours I’m leading for VENT here (link). My personal blog is not up yet, but I'm working on that soon!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

1.3 Million Hawks and Counting.....

Militia Hill Hawk Watch displaying its banner during IHMW.
Photo by Rich Conroy.
Congratulations to the 102 watchsites from Ontario to Mexico that counted over 1 million raptors during HMANA’s 2nd annual International Hawk Migration Week (IHMW) September 19-27, 2015. 

Thirty-one states and provinces counted thirty species of raptors, the vast majority being Broad-winged Hawks (1,304,132) - since IHMW took place during their peak migration. Other high counts included 23,244 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 6,659 Turkey Vultures, 6,182 Mississippi Kites, 5,696 American Kestrels and 3,661 Osprey.
Graham Scarborough, Eli Gross and Dave Youker
at Kiptopeke, VA. Photo by Brian Taber.
 HMANA started IHMW in 2014 as a way to celebrate raptor migration. We wanted to shine a light on the incredible spectacle that takes place each fall and highlight all the watchsites in the HawkCount monitoring network. 
Jerry Ligouri raptor talk, Celebration of Flight,
Corpus Christi, TX. Photo by Patty Waits Beasley
It’s the perfect opportunity to connect people with the cycle of migration. I think many of my fellow hawk watchers would agree that one of the great joys is introducing someone to a big flight or low-flying peregrine for the first time. It gives my goose bumps to see the excitement in their eyes. Recently during a spectacular flight of broad-wings at my local watchsite, I heard a man say, “Wow, I feel like a better person having witnessed this.”

So the goal of IHMW is to share these experiences with others. And I think we were successful in that. In addition to submitting daily counts to, sites celebrated across the map with various hawk watching festivals, identification workshops and live bird of prey events. Some celebrations included a handful of people on remote mountaintops while other events drew thousands to multi-day festivals but no matter the size, it all revolved around the love of raptors and the pure joy of migration.

For more information about IHMW, please visit 

Hawk watchers at Wellsville Hawk Watch, UT. Photo by Neil Paprocki

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Monitoring Count Traineeship a Great Success!

The Hawk Ridge count team: Alex Lamoreaux, counter; Karl Bardon, count director and Kaija Gahm, count trainee

When Hawk Ridge Observatory was awarded HMANA’s 2015 Hawk Watch Fund to fund a migration monitoring “count” traineeship, we were excited to hear more about it.

Well it’s mid-season and it seems the position has been wildly successful so far. This year’s count trainee, Kaija Gahm, Kaija is an enthusiastic and accomplished young woman who is taking a "gap year" between high school and going off to college at Yale. Among her other accomplishments, she has been a participant in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology "Young Birders Event"; she has won the Massachusetts (overall & Wildlife categories) and national (Wildlife category) Envirothon; and she has been an active participant in E-bird and the Massachusetts Audubon Bird-a-thon for several years throughout high school.

Kaija has been involved in some fantastic days of counting at Hawk Ridge, including a day of 90,000+ songbirds on September 1. Karen Stubenvoll, Hawk Ridge Board Chair is thrilled with Kaija. “It has really enhanced our count by having her here, and we are so happy to be training the next generation.”

The goal of the count traineeship is to provide a unique, hands-on, professional training opportunity for those interested in learning the skills to conduct migration monitoring research. The trainee learns identification of birds by both sight and sound for raptors and non-raptors, data collection, data entry, public relations with visitors, and other valuable research tools.   

Here is a video clip of Kaija in action with hawk counter Alex Lamoreaux from the Duluth News Tribune.
The duty of a counter at Hawk Ridge:

Kaija scanning the sky for raptors at Hawk Ridge
Hearing this story makes us very happy at HMANA. This is what the Hawk Watch Fund is all about! We offer grants each year to watch sites in the monitoring network with the purpose of providing grants to assist watch sites looking for support whether it’s educational materials and displays, construction and maintenance of viewing platforms, hiring hawk watchers, or purchase of equipment. Funding comes from proceeds of HMANA’s annual spring Raptorthon and from direct donations to the Fund.

Sites may apply from December 1-February 15 and awards are chosen April 1. For more information on how to apply, please visit

All photos by Karen Stubenvoll

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Raptors on your Radar?

Duluth Area Map
I'm sure many of you will have stumbled upon the concept of birders and ornithologists checking out the night's NEXRAD Radar readings to look for migrant land birds flying during the night. What many don't seem to have cottoned on to is that you can do exactly the same thing with raptors. For some basics on using radar to observe bird migration check out eBird (here). 

Tom Carrolan, author of the irreverent Hawks Aloft blog (read it here), from Derby Hill is a big proponent of studying hawk flights on radar. He sent me an email this week with some cool images and video from the first big flight at Hawk Ridge on September 12th. Above I have attached an image of Duluth so that you can see where the lake etc is. Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory is a couple of miles north of Duluth, right along the lake shore.

From here I'll let Tom explain:

Radar capture of Hawk Ridge Flight (the thin blue line)
"Above is a still image showing the typical Hawk Ridge flight line affected by the lake line… initially it’s on rails at the shore (indicated by the thin blue line of raptors). As the day goes along you can observe the raptor flight drifts inland (west). From the day's hawkcount report conditions were described as southwest to east, however, they were certainly northwest inland as indicated by the still image and radar loop, which would indicate the SW-E readings at the lake were caused by a lake breeze.

This link is for a two-hour sample, showing the flight. Note birds at the northeast end of the loop first, then look towards the hawkwatch

The radar shows exactly what was observed on the ground. From the report: "Broad-wings started strong during morning lift off, but the kettles drifted off to our west with the light easterly breeze, two more dark Swainson's were spotted, the fifth day in a row” (you can read the days report on BirdHawk here)."

As far as I'm concerned it's really cool to be able to see and capture the flight of birds during a day like this. It allows you to see both how a large flight of raptors looks on radar but also to get an idea of what you were missing by being stuck at one site if the flight lines of the birds move. Another thing for radar fans to mess around with. 

Out of interest, here's the radar loop from their 17 thousand bird day on the 19th of September (click link).

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hawkwatching Across The Globe - Israel

Hawkwatching panorama Israel - Luke Tiller
1/ Tell us a little about your watch.
The Israeli Ornithological Center Soaring Birds Count has been going on for over 30 years. During this period the survey has been held in 2 different parts of Israel: in the Northern Valleys and in recent years the west Samaria Hills, about 10 miles east of Tel Aviv. The survey consists of three to five posts, several miles apart spanning the width of the country. The posts are manned daily and the season is eight weeks in length from mid-August to mid-October. We have used volunteers over the years but in recent years we have moved over to using mainly paid local surveyors. 

In spring 2015 we returned to the Eilat mountains after 18 years and re-established a Spring Soaring Birds Count. This is also a long term project that is run by a mixture of paid surveyors and volunteers.

Red-footed Falcon - Luke Tiller
2/ What is the most numerous raptor species seen at your count? 
In the fall, Honey Buzzards (Honeys) are the most common with an average of over 400,000 individuals, also 300,000 White Storks, 110,000 Lesser Spotted Eagles and 50,000 Pelicans and Levant Sparrowhawks. In the Spring half a million Steppe Buzzards and close to half a million Honey Buzzards as well. Both seasons have another 200,000 soaring birds of other species. 

3/ What are the most sought after?
We put special emphasis on different species for different reasons. Storks we count as part of the flight safety project. Levant Sparrowhawks and Lesser Spotted Eagles are counted as means of monitoring the populations of these species as the majority of their population passes through Israel in migration. There is special interest in "pulling out" the larger Eagles, especially in the fall, Eastern Imperial, Greater Spotted and Steppe. There is always interest in rarities and when possible we search for Crested (Oriental) Honey Buzzards within the streams of Honey Buzzards and we always keep an eye out for the rarer Falcons, Eleonora's, Lanner, Saker etc.

Steppe Eagle - Luke Tiller
4/ Do you band/ring raptors too?
We do in Eilat in the spring. There is a small scale project to band Steppe Buzzards and Levant Sparrowhwks down there. Eilat is the most important place for banding Levants in the world. 

5/ Do you just count raptors or are you counting other bird species as well?
Just raptors for now, we have separate surveys for passerine flights. 

6/ What are the goals of your count (outreach, conservation issues, population monitoring all of the above)?
One of the main, and unique, goals of the count is to ensure air travel safety. The huge numbers of migrants soaring birds crossing Israel can prove to be an issue for both civil and military aircraft and the survey is held in collaboration with the IAF. This means survey leaders are in constant contact with air traffic control to update them about movements of birds. Our team identifies and counts everything that passes and the data is collected. We also use the main survey posts as an educational and outreach tool and we hold open weekends for the public. 
These weekends often attract large numbers of visitors. As part of this we have interpretative naturalists and educators to help explain this incredible migration spectacle to visitors. The central post is highly accessible being just outside the capital and near the crossings of both both main North/South and East/West Routes through the country.
Marsh Harrier - Luke Tiller
7/ What is the best time to visit your watch ?
There is always something to look at in a hawkwatch post in Israel. In the fall I suggest the last week of September to mid October when the larger birds pass in impressive streams, Pelicans, Lesser Spotted Eagles and other aquila species like Greater Spotted, Imperial, Steppe etc can be seen. The relatively uniform weather here means that flights are fairly predictable and regular with late morning when the passage usually kicks off.

8/ Can your data be viewed online, if so where?
Data and daily updates can be found on the Israel Birds Portal

9/ If visitors from the US wanted to visit your site where should they go to find out more?
Same thing, the portal, they can contact us through there!

Great White Pelicans - Luke Tiller
Thanks to Jonathan Meyrav from the Israeli Ornithological Center for asnwering our questions. To read more about hawkwatching in Israel you can read HMANA board member Luke Tiller's blog posts about his time out there counting in fall (on his blog). You can get an idea of spring migration by reading Doug Gochfeld's experiences out there this spring on The Leica Birding Blog (here).