Monday, September 19, 2016

HMANA Seeks Executive Director

The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) is seeking a dynamic, enthusiastic leader to become its first executive director.  If you are a proven fundraiser in a non-profit arena, preferably in an environmental field and with knowledge of raptors and their migrations, please consider applying for this unique opportunity.

Applications will be accepted until November 1, 2016.  The winning candidate will have an office in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge’s new visitor center near Gibraltar, Michigan, approximately 20 miles south of Detroit.  The visitor’s center will open in early 2017 and is located within a major flyway for southbound raptors.

We are looking for an experienced, outgoing individual with proven fundraising expertise and a track record of membership growth and volunteer engagement in a nonprofit organization. Position is funded for two years, and the incumbent is expected to work with the board of directors to seek funding to grow the organization and continue the position beyond 2018.  Benefits include health insurance stipend and vacation, among others.

For a full job description, visit .  To apply, please submit cover letter, resume, and at least three professional references to: . No phone calls or agency submissions, please.

HMANA is a membership-based, citizen-science and professional organization of more than 200 raptor migration monitoring sites in North America. Founded in 1974, we maintain the largest repository of raptor migration counts in the world through HawkCount.  HMANA partners with three other organizations as part of the Raptor Population Index Project (\) to analyze and disseminate information on regional and continental raptor population trends based on migration count data. The organization maintains a variety of other research programs and fundraising efforts (

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Counting Vultures on Migration - Protocols, Methods, etc.

Migrating Turkey Vulture...or is it?

It's really exciting that fall migration is underway. As I'm sure most will agree, spending time at count sites is one of the great joys of the birding year. I'm helping count this year at a site that is new for me, Mohonk Preserve, in upstate New York. We won't see big numbers, but it's hawk watching. On most days, we have vultures in the sky. As most hawk watchers can attest, counting vultures can be a frustrating endeavor. This has been an issue for years and years. I haven't heard much discussion about it recently, so I'm curious how different sites handle counting these birds.  I know it is somewhat site-dependent, but might be productive to get some discussion going on this topic if there is enough of a discrepancy between sites in methodology.
What sort of vulture protocol do you have in place to ensure some consistency in data collection?

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 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 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 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 ( 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