Monday, April 26, 2010

Duluth HMANA Conference Field Trip

I’ve been to most HMANA conferences over the past 30 years. Sometimes I debate myself over the time and financial costs, and afterwards, I am always very glad I went. I first birded in Texas in 1992 as part of the Corpus Christi conference. I had such a great time – I’ll never forget my first Caracara, my first Great Kiskadee, and my first White-tailed Hawk – that I have made at least 18 subsequent birding trips to Texas. I first visited Utah on a fantastic conference at Snowbird. I got a lot of life birds, but was so impressed by Utah’s beauty I have been back a dozen times. And of course, the presentations were fantastic at the conferences at well. With the great presentations at the Duluth conference, I learned a lot because most of the material was as yet unpublished.

One of the highlights of the Duluth conference was the Friday morning field trip to Sax-Zim bog, about a half hour’s drive from Duluth, famous for its boreal species highlighted by occasional spectacular winter invasions of Great Gray Owls and Hawk Owls.

Starting out at dawn in a very comfortable small bus, we all had high hopes but realistic expectations. The trip the day before had seen relatively little in very strong, gusty winds. We were shocked when about 30 seconds off the highway, we suddenly stopped, backed up, and found ourselves looking at a Great Gray Owl perched at eye level on the edge of the dirt road, as though it were sitting next to us on the bus. We were able to back up further and get out without disturbing the owl. The trip was already a fantastic success, because no one, including our superb guides, expected Great Gray this late.

We continued on. Our second special bird was a Northern Hawk Owl, perched on a sign along the road. It dropped down to hunt several times and carried prey back to what we assumed to be its nest while Sandhill Cranes called loudly and flew around the clearing in the woods. It was barely 7 a.m and we already had a fantastic trip, with lifer birds for many of the 12 people on the bus. Shortly thereafter we had a second hawk Owl, even closer, and which flew right over us, low.

There were other birds as well, about a half dozen Black-billed Magpies, Sharp-tailed Grouse displaying on a lek, about a half dozen male Northern Harriers, winnowing Wilson’s Snipe displaying overhead, lots of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and at least a half dozen Bald Eagles close, and a number of ducks. We stopped at two sets of feeders isolated in the bog, but known to produce Boreal Chickadee on occasion. We had to be satisfied with Red-breasted Nuthatches, a Pine Siskin, and a gorgeous male Purple Finch. We had 50 species in an unforgettable field trip and conference.

(Photographs by David Brandes)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We wish you had been there!

What a great time! A huge amount of appreciation goes to the Hawk Ridge Observatory gang for all the work that went into hosting the event. The presentations were excellent, the field excursions awesome, and the opportunity to see old friends and make new ones all contributed to another successful HMANA conference.
The only thing we could have wished for was that you were there to share in the experience!
Look for an upcoming blog on field trips. And check out HMANA makes news .

Our keynote speaker following Saturday’s banquet was Dr. David Mech, Senior Research Scientist, USGS. You may have read some of his accounts over the years in National Geographic and other publications. He shared with us highlights of his 50+ year career as one of the world’s top wolf researchers. Why a program on wolves? You may wonder. Along with hawks and eagles, wolves are at the top of the food chain. Many of their prey are the same, and cycles which affect one tend to affect the other. Mech showed us some stunning photos and video clips. One such clip showing a connection between Golden Eagles and wolves was extracted from this excellent film . We're certain you'll say "Wow!" as we all did that night in Duluth.

Above: David Mech (Vic Berardi photo); Top: timber wolf track (S.Fogleman photo)

HMANA’s Duluth conference an international event; Iceland volcano presents problem for Congolese scientists

What could a volcano in Iceland and visitors from Africa possibly have in common with the HMANA conference in Duluth? This was a situation that conference organizer Julie O’Connor could never have anticipated. Shortly before the conference began, she received registrations from two scientists in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Not long after their arrival in Duluth, the eruption in Iceland had begun spewing a huge ash cloud which shut down air travel throughout Europe. At the end of the conference Bandele Fidele Egalenzibo and Luhilu Mukwalemba Bienvenue were scheduled to make flight connections in Brussels on their way home from Duluth.

Despite language problems (Julie doesn’t speak French, the language of the DRC, and our distinguished visitors speak very little English) O’Connor devoted a huge amount of time over the next few days working phone and internet in an attempt to find a solution to the travel dilemma presented. On Saturday evening we learned that she had helped them connect with a friend at UMichigan who would arrange a flight to Kinshasa-Gombe. She and one of the Hawk Ridge volunteers saw them off on a bus to Ann Arbor. Bon voyage, amis!
in photo, L to R: Fidele Egalenzibo, senior scientist, Ministry of the Environment, Democratic Republic of the Congo; Aldo Contreras Reyes, Chavarillo Veracruz, Mexico; Jean-Pierre Savard, Environment Canada; Luhilu Mukwalemba Bienvenue, Ministry of the Environment, DRC; David Hussell, Environment Canada; Ernesto Ruelas Inzunza, Xalapa, MX and currently teaching at Dartmouth College in NH

Saturday, April 17, 2010

HMANA Conference continues..

Friday at the HMANA conference was a grand success! Participants enjoyed a full day of different field trips and a host of scientific and non-scientific presentations. Some of the talks included: Raptor Migration by Computer-Using Modeling and Satellite Tracking Data to Fill in the Gaps by David Brandes, Migratory Route of a Golden Ealge bwtween Southwestern Wisconsin and Norhtern Canada by Mark Martell, and Precious Little Jewels- Teaching Children about Raptors by Janice Sweet.

After a wonderful dinner, we had the honor of listening to Dr Scott Lanyon, professor and head Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and behavior at the University of Minnesota. He gave an excellent presenation entitled: Insights from the Avian Tree if Life: Raptor Stories. He explained how scientists discover the evolutionary relationships of modern species and how are changing understanding of these relationships leads to changes in in raptor classification. It was one of the top highlights of the conference.


Janelle Long - Executive Director -Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and Conference Coordinator Julie O' Connor

Laurie Goodrich - Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and David Hussell - HMANA advisor

Ernesto Ruelas -RPI Project Manager and Aldo Reyes - Veracruz River of Raptors Hawkwatch

Friday, April 16, 2010

HMANA's Spring Conference in Progress

Raptor enthusiasts from around North America and abroad are enjoying the start of HMANA's spring conference this weekend. The conference is hosted by Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and being held at the Raddisson Hotel in Duluth, MN. Most arrived and registered thursday night in time ot relax and enjoy the evening social. The conference kicked off this morning with some great scientific speakers. Stay tuned for more updates!
In the photos above we see Brett Mandernack presenting his data on satellite tracking bald eagles in the upper midwest, and Ernesto Ruelas standing aside HMANA's information table.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spring Raptorthon is Heating Up

It’s t-shirt weather at a lot of watchsites across North America! Featured in this photo and wearing his new free Raptorthon shirt is Brain Taber of the College Creek Hawkwatch in VA. Brian and his team-mates spent one full day on April 7th counting hawks for their spring Raptorthon event.
Visit: to see his results.

The spring Raptorthon is currently underway! Individuals and watchsite teams from across the country are participating in this fun event as a way to raise awareness for raptor conservation as well as funds for their local watchsites and raptor monitoring efforts at HMANA.

It’s not too late to get out and get involved. The spring Raptorthon event continues through May 15th. Broad-winged hawk migration is heating up through most of the east…a perfect time to organize a one day Raptorthon count with your family or friends. Check out our website for details:

If you don’t have the time this spring to organize your own event, there’s a new way to get involved. You can show your support for any team online! Visit HMANA’s Raptorthon page and click on “Donate Now”. There you will see a drop-down menu of all participating sites where you can make a pledge for any amount.

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New North American Hawk Silhouette Guide Available Free

The Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) has published a new silhouette Guide to Hawks Seen in North America. This new, 2-pp, black-and-white guide features soaring silhouettes and key field marks of 21 migratory hawks regularly seen in most of North America. The artwork is by Paul Carrier, who developed the silhouette Guide to Hawks Seen in the North East two years ago.

This new guide is a significant revision and expansion of that guide, adding Mississippi Kite, Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, and adult male Northern Harrier, as well as other new images and additional field marks. The guide can be downloaded and printed free of charge for personal, noncommercial use by visiting . The guide has also been professionally printed on heavy, glossy card stock and laminated for all-weather use in the field. Individual laminated copies cost $5 plus $1 postage and handling.

Hawk watches, bird clubs, schools, nature shops, or any other organization can raise funds and help educate their constituents about hawk identification by purchasing the guide in bulk quantity at wholesale prices. For complete information, including bulk pricing, and to order or download the new guide, visit

The HMANA web site also offers a lot of information on hawk identification and migration, including a new guide to books and online resources on hawk identification and migration, as well as the popular Guide to Hawks Seen in the North East and the free PowerPoint presentation, Identification of Raptors of the Northeast. These valuable hawk identification aids can all be downloaded free of charge.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Easter!

Broadwings are on the move! 

The first good-sized push of northward-bound Broad-winged Hawks crossed over Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park near Mission, Texas, on Easter morning. Just under 4000 were counted for the day, nearly all in the morning hours.