Tuesday, August 23, 2016

"HMANA Get-together" Weekend in Cape May - October 14-16

Bald Eagle @ Cape May - Tom Reed
This fall, October 14-16, HMANA will be running the first in what we hope will be a series of low-cost, self-drive events around the country at Cape May, New Jersey. The idea is to pick one place each fall and spring to meet other HMANA members and raptor afficionados at for a weekend of raptor watching adventures. HMANA will provide participants with local expert leadership on the ground and a weekend long itinerary which you can keep to as much as you would like. There will be a reception with food and drinks and we will send you an electronic welcoming pack with loads of inside tips on the area with great ideas on where to stay, where to eat (if you want to say slip away for a romantic meal rather than stay with the group), places you’ll want to visit if you decide to extend your stay, maps and lots of other cool tidbits of information.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon - Tom Reed
If you’ve ever been to a HMANA Conference, or on one of our longer tours, you will know that one of the best things about them is the opportunity to meet and make friends with people from across the country who love hawks just as much as you do. The idea of these weekend "Get-together" events is to provide members with the same sense of community and chances to make new friends and networking connections as these other events but at a lower cost and with a shorter time commitment.

Golden Eagle - Tom Reed
Of course picking Cape May, New Jersey to kick off the series was something of a no-brainer. The hawkwatch platform must be as close as it is possible to get to hallowed ground for your average hawkwatcher and the whole town is nothing short of a Mecca for most birders. There’s a reason that you will probably find more famous birders per square mile in Cape May than in any other part of the United States and that simple reason is the birds. Cape May is one of those places where migration can be truly magical and it’s probably also one of the only places where the phenomenon of migration has inspired a book about both the place and its characters.

Northern Goshawk - Tom Reed
For hawkwatching fans, Mid-October is a great time to visit the Cape as many falcons and accipiters reach the peak of their fall flight. It’s also a great time to potentially pick up some of those highly prized later migrants like Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk and Rough-legged Hawk. Mid-October is also edging into vagrant season in Cape May when almost anything that migrates might show up including the possibility of an off course Swainson’s Hawk. I remember my anticipation being so high on my first visit to Cape May that I could barely sleep and the first night I found myself wandering the streets of Cape May at about 3:00am listening to the plaintive calls of migrant thrushes as I waited anxiously for dawn.

Swainson's Hawk @ Cape May - Tom Reed
Expert guidance for this trip will be provided by Tom Reed. Tom is not only a member of the HMANA board but also one of Cape May’s previous hawkwatchers. As well as currently working for Cape May Bird Observatory as their Migration Count Coordinator he is also one of the few employees of CMBO who grew up in the area, making him the perfect person to supply us with a great itinerary and lots of insider information. Tom also provided the incredible photographs that festoon this blog post. We do hope that you can join us for the fun. For more information and to book your place visit our website (here).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Hawkcount as a resource

Hawkcount as a resource
One of HMANA’s most valuable assets is its online database Hawkcount(created by Jason Sodergren). As well as being a useful place for counts across the US and beyond to store their sightings, the data provides a number of useful functions for those that want to dip their toe into the world of hawkwatching. (Note you can click on all the images in this article and make them larger)
Hawkcount: Home Page
Finding recent daily count details
From the front page of Hawkcount you have a couple of options for drilling down into the data contained within. First up when counts are in progress you can see the daily results from the various counts on the front page and click through for more data. You can see from the screenshot that I took this early in August when just a few counts are online, but if the days count from Rockfish Gap is what you were after then you can click through straight from the Hawkcount home page. 
Hawkcount: Individual Count Daily Report
This will show you the day’s count and if you are lucky a forecast for the next days or next few days*. From there you can click on the “Site Profile” link to get into data related to migration timing and more seasonal related count data (more on those below).
Hawkcount: Count Map/Pulldown Page
Finding a count
First and foremost, Hawkcount can help you find a local hawkwatch to visit. Everyone’s heard of Cape May (where we are running this year’s HMANA Get-together), but how many of you can name the other nine currently functioning New Jersey based hawkwatches on Hawkcount? To find them click on the little map at the top of HMANA’s Hawkcount website and you will enter a page (photo above) where you can either use a pull down menu, click on a state to bring up a map of hawkwatches in that state or use the list of countries, states and provinces at the bottom of the page to find a hawkwatch near you. 

Hawkcount: State Counts
Note in the example for NY State (above) you can see on the list below the map whether they are a fall or spring hawkwatch, whether they are active (check when the last data was collected) and where they are located. If you click one of the sites you can then start getting a whole load more information. Be aware the counts only show in the map of the state you have clicked on, to see other counts in other states you need to go back and click on the other state you are interested in.

Hawkcount: Individual Counts - Site Profile
Individual Count Information – Site Profile
Once you’ve located a count that you might want to visit you can click through onto the individual count's page and start to find out a whole load more about them (see screenshot above). Most sites are going to give you a set of basic information about them including contact details for them including websites, directions to the site and information like the dates of their count season.
Hawkcount: Individual Counts - Migration Timing 
You can however start to drill down much further into the data. Given Braddock Bay as an example: If you were trying to say work out when it would be a good time to visit if you wanted to see a big flight of Turkey Vultures you can click the “Migration Timing” tab (see screenshot above). This would allow you to see general trends for migration timing in the bar chart but also see historically when the largest flights have occurred. Looking at that historical data, to see a big flight of TV’s at Braddock would see you visiting the first week of April into the early portion of the second week.

Individual Count Information – Latest Count Data
If you were targeting certain species, a good time to visit a watch for peak migration at a watch or even just wanting to see how often there was a counter on site that would be one way to approach things. The other way would be to look at their count data directly. From the counts "Site Profile" page you hit the “Latest Count Data” link (top right on the site profile page). 
Hawkcount: Individual Counts - Latest Count Data
From there you can change the month or year using the pulldown menu on the left(see above screenshot). If you go to May 2016 you can see that Braddock has someone out almost every day that month unless the weather precluded a counter being able to get out. Some other sites you will see are much less frequently manned. If you want to go to a site and have some company, make sure you find a site to visit with regular coverage.

If you scroll further down the page you can do some fun comparison work and compare previous seasons at a certain count. By clicking on the previous month comparison tab (which will show you that sites historical data by month, or that sites historical data by season). If you scroll all the way down you can see the day by day reports (see screenshot below).
Hawkcount: Individual Counts - Season/Monthly Comparison
These are just a few ways that you can use Hawkcount to help you find a count, plan a visit to a count, keep up with recent days at your local watch and even get a forecast for upcoming count days. Sometimes I just enjoy some vicarious hawkwatching by scrolling through the recent reports! You can visit the website here.

* If you are lucky at the end of the information included in the day’s count there might be a “Forecast” for the next day or upcoming days. I must say that as a hawkwatcher I mildly loathed the forecast section for the following reasons: 1/ if you put in a bad forecast it means anyone who reads it probably won’t come down - guaranteeing you a lonely visitor free day 2/ If you put that it is likely to be good and it somehow turns out not to be then I worried that people would blame me for making them come all the way out to the watch 3/ who wants to jinx a potentially good day by touting it online beforehand?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

It's Raptorthon Season. Join the fun!


Spring is here, even though it doesn’t look a whole lot like it here in snowy New Hampshire. Phoebes, woodcocks and hermit thrushes are back and raptors are certainly on the move overhead. It’s at this time each year when HMANA celebrates Raptorthon, a great way to head out and enjoy a day birding while raising funds for monitoring sites and HMANA programs. We invite you to take part this year!
Over the past 8 years, Raptorthon has raised over $32,000 for raptor migration programs and watch sites. I think that is pretty terrific. And in my opinion the best part about Raptorthon is that it directly supports HMANA’s Hawk Watch Fund. Raptorthon makes it possible for us to offer Hawk Watch Fund grants each year to sites to help them purchase equipment, create interpretive signs or hire educators. It’s one the greatest ways HMANA is able to give back to the monitoring community.

This is how Raptorthon works…From March 1-May 31, simply choose a day and decide where you’d like to count; your local watch site, your backyard, or tour around anywhere to find as many species as you can. Count by yourself, with friends, or as part of a team. Find as many raptor species as possible during that day (or include ALL bird species if you wish). Then you register with HMANA, assign a percentage of your proceeds to a watch site or other conservation organization and let your friends or colleagues know you are raising money for a great cause! Free t-shirts when you register.
Here are a few of the teams that are participating this year. If you choose not to participate, please consider supporting one of these.

Jerry Ligouri
Jerry Ligouri is our featured Raptorthoner this year and will be doing his Raptorthon on April 16th at Grandeur Peak, Utah. Half of pledges go toward supporting HMANA programs like HawkCount.org and Hawk Watch Fund grants and half goes directly to HawkWatch International programs. Jerry has also donated this year's Raptorthon prizes, a copy of his field guide, Hawks At a Distance and a beautiful framed Northern Harrier print.
Frank counting at West Skyline


Veteran raptorthoner, Frank Nicoletti will be conducting his Raptorthon in late April where he counts at the West Skyline Hawk Watch in Minnesota. Half of the funds he raises will support the Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and half will fund HMANA programs.
Rich Conroy
Rich Conroy is the site coordinator for Militia Hill Hawk Watch in PA and will be conducting his annual Raptorthon there on April 23-24th. Proceeds will support the Militia Hill hawk watch, a site sponsorship on Hawkcount and HMANA's Counting for Raptor Conservation campaign. The Militia Hill funds keep their bird feeder station stocked, cover the cost of printed materials/handouts about the hawk watch for distribution to the public and for educational materials for classes that visit us. They also donate to park upkeep through a Friends group.

Team Fly Like an Eagle is back again for their fifth year, comprised of Vic Laubach, Brenda Tekin, Gabriel Mapel and Penny Warren. Their event is April 23rd and will be raising funds for the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch in VA and HMANA programs.
Teammates and their new interpretive sign
made possible by Hawk Watch Fund grant in 2013.















Please visit www.hmana.org/raptorthon to support these and other teams, to learn more about participating and to download forms.

Happy spring birding!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meet the Hawkwatchers - Anna Stunkel - Bradbury Mountain, ME

Anna Stunkel at Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
1 Tell us a little about your history!

I grew up in Natick, Massachusetts, and have loved birding since elementary school. My family has always loved spending time outdoors and they encouraged my interest in birding. I started getting into birding by visiting local hotspots (especially Mount Auburn Cemetery, an excellent warbler stopover site) and joined a young birders club. I was fortunate to have some wonderful mentors at Mass Audubon who took me on birding trips and let me help with passerine and saw-whet owl banding. My fascination with birds kept growing with each of these adventures. When it came time to apply for college, I knew that I wanted to study ornithology and ecology. Most of all, conservation biology and animal behavior fascinate me, so I focused my studies on those areas. I went to school at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, where I had the opportunity to take field-based classes visiting nearby Acadia National Park, Great Duck Island, other areas of Maine, and Costa Rica. These courses were unforgettable, and I learned so much from my professors, classmates, and our adventures.

2 How long have you been counting hawks? Where have you counted before?
I've been counting hawks for three fall seasons. Just after graduating college, I did an internship working as a hawkwatcher and raptor bander at Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, in California. Before then I had little experience as a hawk counter, but instantly loved it. The site is an amazing place to observe a variety of raptors, some of which were new to me as an east coaster. The staff and volunteers at GGRO are excellent teachers and I learned so much about hawkwatching and raptor research.

For the past two falls, I worked as a hawkwatcher for Intermountain Bird Observatory, at Lucky Peak in Idaho. I had the opportunity to work with a great field crew, supervisors, and hawkwatch partner, and also had a chance to do more outreach work.

3 Where are you counting this year? What do you like most about the watch?


This spring I am counting on Bradbury Mountain, near Freeport, Maine. The count is sponsored by Freeport Wild Bird Supply (website here and Facebook Page here) and Leica Optics (which provides me with amazing quality optics for the duration of the season). There is a link to the hawkwatch page, which includes our hawkcount.org page that is updated daily, on the Freeport Wild Bird Supply website.

I have just started the season at this site, and am very happy to be back in Maine where I am familiar with the diverse birdlife and ecology of the region. In particular, I was excited to get started at this site because education and outreach are an integral part of the program. Bradbury Mountain State Park is one of the most visited state parks in Maine, so many people come up and ask questions about the hawk count. I am also pleased that the hawkcounter is responsible for recording both raptor and non-raptor migrant numbers, thus adding useful data to the program. My supervisors, Derek and Jeannette Lovitch, own Freeport Wild Bird Supply and are highly knowledgeable regarding local areas to go birding as well as useful hawkwatching and birding ID suggestions.

Anna Stunkel and a Red-tailed Hawk 
4 What is it that you especially like about raptors. What turned you on to hawkwatching? What was the first site you visited?

I love the power, beauty, and agility of raptors. Their diversity in plumages and hunting techniques also amazes me. When I was a kid, I visited Wachusett Mountain hawkwatch in Massachusetts and became fascinated by the beauty of these birds and the sheer numbers moving through. I especially love falcons, with their fierce personalities, speed, and intelligence. Anyone is likely to feel a sense of awe watching raptor kettles, which is another one of my favorite aspects of hawkwatching. While working in Idaho, we watched large kettles each containing up to one hundred Turkey Vultures streaming overhead, and were able to share the spectacle of these often under-appreciated birds with visitors.

5 What do you like particularly about the world of hawkwatching? 

I love both the moments of solitude and the outreach and education involved in hawkwatch. Spending time alone on a mountain while watching birds is an excellent way to develop focus and tune in to the natural world. At the same time, one of the main reasons that I enjoy hawkwatching so much is that it provides a chance to teach visitors about these birds. I think that this aspect is just as important as collecting accurate data, especially when it comes to teaching children. Young children tend to have a wonderful enthusiasm about new and interesting things in nature, and they are the next generation who should learn to enjoy and care for the natural world.

Busy days are a beautiful spectacle, and I love watching large kettles. I appreciate that hawkwatching is an art, and ID is more about general impressions, flight style, and shape than it is about field marks. While it is always wonderful to appreciate the beauty of raptors up close, distant IDs provide the greatest and most challenging learning moments.

I love meeting a variety of people from all walks of life who volunteer their time towards hawkwatching. I have listened to some fascinating stories from these people, learned from them, and enjoyed many good times.

6 Unfortunately hawks don’t migrate year round. What do you do for the rest of the year?

During the rest of the year, I work for other seasonal fieldwork positions as often as possible. These have included work on seabird islands (Petit Manan, Maine and Southeast Farallon, California), and a woodpecker project (Hastings Natural History Reserve, California). Each of these projects has provided a great learning opportunity and the chance to work in beautiful places. During the winter, I work as an artist and elementary school substitute teacher.
Anna's Office at Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch
7 If you could go and count hawks anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I would love to see the River of Raptors in Veracruz. It would also be amazing to visit Eilat, Israel, which is one of the best migration sites in the world for raptors as well as other birds. The photos of sheer raptor numbers at these sites are stunning! There are so many other places that I would like to visit and count hawks. Others include the Goshute Mountains, Hawk Ridge, and Cape May.

8 What do you like to do when you aren’t watching hawks (or birding)?

I love to draw and paint, and think that sketching is a great way to become familiar with birds (as well as other wildlife and plants) and make careful observations. I also enjoy horseback riding, looking for reptiles and amphibians, and listening to ‘70s music.

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

I have a deviantart account where I post artwork and fieldwork photos (link here), along with an art blog (link here). 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

More HawkCount reviewers needed!

The HMANA Data Committee and Board have re-initiated a review of HawkCount data entry in an effort to reduce errors and encourage documentation for rare species observations. Prior to the shift to digital data entry, HawkCount paper forms were previously reviewed for accuracy.
The reviewers listed below by state, province or region have kindly volunteered to serve in this capacity starting in spring 2016. Because more HawkCount sites operate during the fall migration, we will be expanding this review process and will need additional volunteers starting in late summer 2016. Contact Gerald J. Niemi (gniemi@umn.edu) if interested.  

Reviewer                            Count Area(s)   
Zach Smith                        Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, 
                                              New Brunswick, Quebec
Paul Roberts                      Connecticut, Massachusetts
Andy Mason                      New York
Laurie Goodrich                Pennsylvania
Holly Merker
Tom Reed                           Delaware, Maryland, 
                                              New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia
John Barker                        Eastern Ontario
Markus Mika                     Arkansas, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota, 
                                              Western Ontario, Wisconsin
Neil Paprocki                     Alaska, Arizona, Colorado
Alan Fish                           California
Arthur Green                      Montana, Texas, Mexico, Central 
                                              and South America 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Want to See A Million Raptors?

Join HMANA and Pronatura-Veracruz
for the Hawk-Watching Trip of a Lifetime to Veracruz,
Mexico’s River of Raptors.

September 30th to October 8th, 2016
Broad-winged, Swainsons hawks and turkey vultures swirl over Veracruz.
There aren’t too many places on earth where you can see hundreds of thousands of raptors in a day. Veracruz, Mexico is one of them.  With the right amount of luck, you could see one million raptors on this nine day tour! Each fall season an average of four and a half million hawks of nearly 30 species, including greater than two million Broad-winged Hawks, are recorded from two count sites in central Veracruz, Mexico. Along with mind-boggling numbers of other migrant bird species – Wood Storks, Anhingas, White Pelicans, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers among them – these raptors are funneled into a 15-mile-wide bottleneck between the mountains and the Gulf of Mexico. Counts in recent years have confirmed that Veracruz is host to the most concentrated raptor migration in the world and receives over 90% of the world population of Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks, and Mississippi Kites.

The HMANA-Pronatura tour will highlight the high diversity and number of raptor and non-raptor migrants (including dragonflies and butterflies – which number over one million per day!), as well as the conservation of these species that is being led by Pronatura-Veracruz. We will also focus on some of the region’s specialty bird species including some of the region's 25 endemics. There will be time for stops at archaeological sites such as Cortez’ first Spanish colony, and cultural immersion, including excellent local food, throughout the tour.

Our guides will be Pronatura biologist, Eduardo Martinez, and Phil Brown, who has led HMANA tours to Costa Rica and South Florida.

Everyone should experience migration on this scale at least once in their lives! We hope you will join us. Space is limited so reserve your spot today! See tour itinerary and learn more at www.hmana.org or contact Julie Brown at brown@hmana.org.

To see a video of broad-winged hawk migration over Veracruz, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-CXQXXehyw





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

HMANA Raptor ID Workshop 2016 - Be there or be.....

2014 HMANA ID Workshop at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
Come join HMANA for perhaps the only full scale tour in the country where the specific focus is improving your hawkwatching skills. The tour takes place in Western New York State in spring for good reason: unlike Fall, Spring Migration is an intense affair packed into a relatively short space of time. This compressed migration allows us to pick up early migrants like Red-shouldered Hawks, Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks as well as late season movers like Broad-winged Hawk all in the same week. 

The tour is aimed at those with some experience watching hawks but will be of value to anyone from beginner level on up. Having two expert leaders allows us to focus on the specific needs of individuals and to give hands on instruction in one-on-one scenarios. Previous participants have ranged from beginner hawkwatchers all the way through to counters at well-known hawkwatches. The main requirement is enthusiasm for time watching raptors.



Rough-legged Hawk from HMANA ID Workshop 2015 - Luke Tiller
As well as working on identification of raptors we will focus, where possible, on aging and sexing birds as well as discussing subspecies and plumage types. As well as being instructional tour guides Frank Nicoletti and Luke Tiller pride themselves on providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning about identifying hawks in flight. Visits to the BBRR banding stations will allow us to get up close and personal with a number of raptors and study some key identifiers in hand. 

Check out these incredible days from tours past: This one included 5000 raptors including 46 Rough-legged Hawks and two dark morph Swainson’s Hawks (hawkcount report here), and this one almost 5000 raptors including a sweep of all possible buteos: 67 Rough-legged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawk, Black Vulture, Krider’s and dark Red-tailed Hawks (hawkcount report here). 



Saw-whet Owl from HMANA ID Workshop 2014 - Luke Tiller
This year the tour is pushed back to a slightly later start date. This means that we have a better chance of encountering one of those big Broad-winged Hawk days that Braddock Bay is known for. You can read tour leader Luke Tiller’s write up of a Braddock Bay flight that fell into this tours time frame in a previous season on his blog (here), and if the birding gods really smile upon us there is always the chance of something like this 37K raptor flight being  repeated(read about it on Luke's blog here).

Frank and Luke have both counted at Braddock Bay and have intimate knowledge of the region and the weather systems which makes sure that the group gets absolutely the best experience on any specific day. When flight conditions are not optimal we will visit places like Montezuma NWR, a great site for raptors and more,
 to see where much of the work was undertaken to reintroduce Bald Eagles to New York State and beyond.


2014 HMANA ID Workshop at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
As well as diurnal raptors we will be looking out for owls, visiting the BBRR Saw-whet banding operation, keeping our eyes peeled for a late Snowy Owl and checking out places where Short-eared Owl often gather to hunt. As well as all the raptors we will hopefully witness some of the incredible sky-blackening flights of passerines that can be seen along the Great Lakes, and get some instruction on IDing these birds too, as well as looking for specialist species like Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes and a wealth of wintering and migrant birds.

You can check out reports from previous year’s tours on our website and 
find out how to make bookings for the tour (here). You can check out a photo album of some of last years tour (here).