Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Honoring HMANA's past Board Chairman

Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness, NH has been honored recently for his extensive contributions to HMANA. Iain had been HMANA's Board Chairman for the last three years and was replaced by Gil Randall in December, 2009.

Since Iain was not present to accept his awards at HMANA's conference in Duluth, MN last month, he recently was presented with a HMANA appreciation award and a gift from the Board of Directors for his service. The gift was a beautiful painting of Pandion haliaetus by David Hughes, a wildlife artist from Pennsylvania.

Iain has given greatly to HMANA and to the raptor conservation field. Some of the outstanding contributions he has made include the groundbreaking work in the Raptor Population Index Project, as well as his guidance and contributions to the Hawk Migration Studies journal. The HMANA board and staff are grateful for his keen leadership and dedication to the organization.

Thank you Iain!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Celebrating Raptor Migration

In case you didn’t get your raptor conference fix from HMANA’s recent Soaring Above Superior conference in Duluth MN, Audubon Greenwich offered another opportunity this past weekend. On Saturday, May 8, 2010, Audubon hosted a conference called “Monitoring and Managing Raptor Populations” which took place at the Audubon Greenwich Nature Center in CT, home of the Quaker Ridge fall hawkwatch site.

The event was a celebration of International Migratory Bird Day and truly honored this year’s theme, “Conserving Birds by Connecting People”. With representatives from across the hemisphere, it was a collaborative conference to identify raptor management priorities and opportunities to engage citizen scientists in these strategies.

HMANA was happy to support this conference as a sponsor and to contribute to the day’s events with a panel discussion on hawkwatch practices and protocols.
Among the participants were representatives from Pronatura Veracruz, Mexico, Bird Life International- Paraguay, Panama Audubon Society, National Audubon Society - International Alliances Program, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Audubon Vermont, and the Audubon Center in Sharon.

More highlights to come.....

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Duluth HMANA Conference: Part 2

Usually I debate the real benefits going to almost any conference, professional or personal. The recent HMANA conference in Duluth was no exception. I wanted to do all the field trips and attend all the papers, but the schedule made that impossible. Fortunately, I decided to go, and ultimately I was very happy with my decisions, though I regretted missing several excellent presentations. (Funny what seeing a Great Gray and two Northern Hawk Owls can do.)

I heard some fascinating presentations at Duluth, several of which were on what we are learning through satellite tracking. Tracking studies have provided dramatic new insights into the incredible migration of shorebirds, such as Whimbrel and Bar-tailed Godwit, and this holds true for raptors as well. Two papers focused on satellite tracking of Bald and Golden Eagles that winter in the Upper Mississippi Valley. One paper revealed impressive variability in Bald Eagle migration and in their summer and winter ranges. I was also surprised to learn about the impressive number of Golden Eagles that winter in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin in habitat that I wouldn’t expect them to occur, and what these “winter Minnesotans” do on their spring migration. There is a lot of exciting field research in progress, and we at the conference were fortunate to hear these presentations well before journal articles by the researchers will be published.

Actively discussing this subject with several people at the conference, another benefit, I was reminded of a classic work, Sparrowhawk, by Ian Newton, which clearly shows that in one species, at least, breeding behavior and success for the average adult Sparrowhawk is not what you might expect. This monograph is a must read for serious students of hawks. Newton’s Population Ecology of Raptors is another “must read.” Finally, I would recommend Newton’s Migration Ecology of Birds, published in 2008. At 976 pages, you might need until the next HMANA conference to complete it, but it is the best, most thorough, single book on bird migration I’ve ever read. If you want to better understand bird migration, or just what we know about hawk migration, you should read Migration Ecology, a book jam packed with information and rich insights into bird migration. If I had one book on birds to take to a desert island where I would be stranded for the rest of my life, this would be it. (Note that Newton was the keynote speaker at the previous HMANA Conference at Hawk Mountain in 2007!)

When the next HMANA Conference is held, wherever that might be (probably in 2013), I’ll debate forking out the money and the time, and will decide to go. As has happened every time I have gone, I will be very glad that I did. I should note that HMANA volunteers and the staff and volunteers of Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth put on an absolutely first-rate conference. Thank you to everyone who helped to make it such a great event.

(Bald Eagle Photo by Robert Augart)