Monday, July 26, 2010

Kittatinny Roundtable

On Saturday I attended the 2010 Kittatinny Roundtable at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a really fun day that I always look forward to. Could anything be better on a sweltering midsummer day than sitting in cool surroundings with a group of hawkwatchers talking about the 2009 hawk migration season?

Hosted by Hawk Mountain and newly-minted PhD. Laurie Goodrich, their senior monitoring biologist, this year hawk counters came from as far away as Allegheny Front hawkwatch in the west to the northern New Jersey sites in the east. I think Picatinny Peak had to drive the farthest but I didn’t do the math on that. In any event, counters from Rose Tree Park, Scotts Mountain, Montclair, Bake Oven Knob, Hawk Mountain, Waggoners Gap, Jacks Mountain and Militia Hill were also there.

The format of the roundtable discussion is that for selected species we look at the peak migration day of the season and the total season count for that species. Was the peak day earlier or later than usual? Who got the big Broad-winged Hawk flight? Did one site have a terrible result but the neighboring site do well? How did weather impact this past season? How do the results look when compared with previous years? The discussions help to provide a more regional perspective on the past season than is possible when only looking at results from a single site.

A few sites claimed “bragging rights” this time around. Militia Hill near Philadelphia tallied more Broad-winged Hawks for the season than any other eastern site with their 13,436 and 7600 on their big day. Allegheny Front posted more Golden Eagles than any other eastern site with 204. The 2009 season turned out to be a bit lackluster for most of the sites. Nothing looked disastrous, with even the American Kestrel posting numbers a bit higher than we’ve seen over the past few years. The Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are major successes virtually everywhere. Overall, the seasonal numbers looked about average, perhaps a tad below average, but only a tad.

But even a lackluster migration season can’t dampen the enthusiasm when you put all those hawkwatchers and counters in the same room for a day. It’s not often that we get a chance to get together and talk about hawks all day with other hawkwatchers, and that alone is well worth the drive.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Palm Trees and Peregrines - HMANA’s Hawkwatching Exchange Program

Are you a fan of “destination hawkwatching”? For some people, (me included) there’s nothing more exciting than incorporating a little hawkwatching into your vacations...or better yet, planning your vacations around hawkwatching. Lots of us make annual pilgrimages to the Texas coast, or to Veracruz to see the large-scale migration. Some migrate all over the continent to favorite spots each spring or fall like Cape May, Hawk Mountain or Hawk Ridge, hoping to catch a stellar broadwing day or an invasion of goshawks. And of course to catch up with all your other migrant hawkwatching friends!

It’s all about networking. Years ago, while planning a trip to Sweden, I was able to connect with some great Swedish birders through We met up and spent some wonderful days birding together. Well, why not do something similar with hawkwatching? Although plenty of sites are thriving, there are many struggling to stay afloat and face challenges finding funding or enough volunteer support. Could tapping into this reserve of sun-seeking or raptor-seeking travelers be a good way to help with this problem? HMANA feels that a Hawkwatcher’s Exchange Program may be a great way to connect these willing destination hawkwatchers with struggling sites.

Our goal is to create a posting board through the HMANA website for sites to connect with hawkwatchers around the country, or even the world. Sites can post announcements for paid or volunteer counting positions, or a note requesting a fill-in counter over a long weekend. Use this page to place an ad for a volunteer counter for a week-long stint of counting in coastal Virginia, or for someone to brave the cold and count golden eagles for the first week in November in New Hampshire.
Likewise, people hoping to get away to watchsites can use this page too. “Raptor enthusiasts looking for hawkwatching getaway in coastal New England for first week in October”.
The site will have a HMANA moderator who will work to connect people with sites. This is a new idea that we are still developing. We feel this job board may become a valuable resource to watchsites, a way to connect hawwatchers with positions and an opportunity for travelers to discover new and exciting places.

The Hawkwatchers Exchange site is currently a work in progress so stay tuned for more announcements. We hope to have it up and running for the upcoming fall migration season.

But while you’re does a week of counting peregrines sound in the Florida Keys? The Curry Hammock State Park Hawkwatch on Little Grassy Key is the perfect example of incorporating volunteer support to a site that needs assistance.
From September 15-October 31, 2010, HMANA will be staffing the site with all willing volunteer counters! Some volunteers live locally in the Keys and will help count or enter daily data reports. Others will come to volunteer their support from Miami, and as far away as New England. What could be better than planning a week of counting thousands of peregrines during peak migration? How about a planning your trip around the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival which takes place onsite from September 22-26. If you would like to get involved at Curry Hammock, please contact me for more information at