Saturday, September 18, 2010

Please Support the Raptor Population Index Project

HMANA needs your help. Between now and June 2011, HMANA needs to raise over $55,000 from private sources in order to take full advantage of nearly $100,000 in grant funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) for the Raptor Population Index (RPI) project.

With your help RPI will continue to conduct research into raptor population trends that can be critical to continent-wide conservation efforts. Please visit RPI’s website ( for details on RPI’s accomplishments.

RPI’s work also provides important support to many services HMANA provides the hawk watching, birding and conservation communities. Thanks to your contributions and funding from NFWF in the past, the RPI project has helped HMANA enhance its support of local hawk watches, widen its monitoring network, and expand reporting features for HawkCount.

In fact, one of the most important beneficiaries of RPI’s work is HMANA’s HawkCount. HMANA’s Monitoring Site Coordinator, Julie Tilden, whose employment, incidentally, funding for RPI has helped make possible, wrote on this site in a previous blog about some of the expanded services HawkCount is able to provide because of RPI (“HawkCount …. So Much More than Just Daily Totals,” November 30, 2009); in a later blog, I wrote about the importance of HawkCount to hundreds of local hawk watches throughout North America (“HawkCount and Local Hawk Watches,” March 19, 2010). All the recent improvements to HawkCount have been made possible largely through the RPI project.

Please review Julie’s and my previous blogs about HawkCount, visit and RPI’s website, then decide how much you can donate to help HMANA raise the money that will make it possible to continue RPI’s important work. You can donate on line at or request a donation form from Julie Tilden ( HMANA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, so your donation is fully tax-deductible.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Exciting Day for Florida Hawkwatchers

HMANA is happy to announce that the Curry Hammock Hawk Watch kicks off on September 15, 2010! This invaluable raptor monitoring site, located in the Florida Keys, has been a terrific presence and a very important site for the Southeast Region for the past 10 years.
The watchsite was established inside Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon because the middle Florida Keys is a major bottleneck during fall migration. Beginning in 1999, the site began monitoring 8 different species of raptors and has counted the highest number of peregrine falcons in the country.
When financial support for the project ran dry in 2008, efforts were abandoned and no count was conducted in 2009. HMANA stepped in this year, recognizing its geographic significance and importance to the Raptor Population Index Project. We decided to coordinate the count and hire an all volunteer team this year while we exploring possible plans for the future. Ideally, HMANA would like to see a local organization coordinate the count and sustain it for the long term.

Currently, there are 6 counters from all over the United States keeping the Curry Hammock count afloat this fall. The count will run from September 15-October 31 and is open to the public.
The FL Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival takes place this year Sept 22-26. If you’re in the area, stop by and visit the hawk watch! All are welcome! And if you have any interest in helping out with the count, please contact Julie Tilden at We can always use more help!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

2010 Fall Raptor Migration - First Week of September

The first week of September is already over. September 1 brought a large group of hawkwatches opening their vistas for fall hawkwatching. So now that the first week is over, how is migration faring?

Not bad is my answer for today. Only a handful of hawkwatches have reported triple digit results so far and none north of Mexico have yet posted four-digit results. Duluth’s Hawk Ridge has come the closest to that mark with an even 800 yesterday (September 8). Sharp-shinned hawk totals there were nearly double the number of Broad-winged hawk, with 456 sharpies to 242 broadwings.

Radar showed what looks like a good overnight flight of songbirds on September 8-9, so that brings me some hope for an uptick in raptor numbers over the next day or so. HawkCount results from the past week look as though nearly all the hawkwatches are getting a piece of whatever is flying. Bald eagle numbers are good, and the coastal sites are seeing some nice numbers of osprey. To my eye, broad-winged hawk numbers seem low, though perhaps the birds are simply waiting for that perfect weather to take to the air. Sharp-shinned hawk numbers are stronger than I might have expected, and kestrels seem better than they have been lately, though of course that isn’t saying much. Northern Harrier counts are also rather low so far.

Next week should tell the tale. Stay tuned for that!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Do Old Site Leaders Just Fade Away?

I recall an old saying: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Sort of like kettles, right? You know, the kind you get on a blue-sky day when the thermals are climbing higher than Jack’s beanstalk, and that big kettle you just saw has vanished.

Today was one of those days, still a bit early in the fall migration season to worry what you might be missing, and yet, that familiar tug on my psyche was there, urging me to grab my binoculars and heavily-laden backpack and climb that hill that has been such a big part of my life for more than 30 years. The daily routine that has come ‘round every September since I-can-hardly-remember-when is so burned into my biorhythms that I have to remind myself: You don’t have to go. You can go to other hills, other lookouts. You can pick the spot that might be the best under whatever wind/weather conditions might exist and go there. You can go for however long or brief a spell you wish. You don’t have to collect data, don’t have to do PR, don’t have to repeat the same explanations or answer the same questions over and over and over again every day, and you don’t have to wish for companions when you are all alone for hours and hours when other people aren’t free to join you. And you don’t have to add to your lifetime overdose of UV exposure.

You’d think that would be enough to thwart the tug, right? It isn’t. A couple of days ago the temperatures were in the 90s, the humidity was worse than oppressive, and the haze so thick you wouldn’t have seen a Condor twenty feet away. I have to admit that I was relieved that I didn’t have to drive the 30 minutes to the hill, and then puff my way up to the site. I was relieved that I didn’t have to stand there for several hours collecting that ever-important negative data and then returning home with mega eyestrain and picking the flying ants out of my hair. It grieves me that the watchsite no longer has a leader/educator/host/entertainer. Who will try to inspire those folks that climb the trail to see a beautiful view, and might have fallen under the spell of hawk migration were there someone there to show them? Not me. No longer. My tenure has faded away, but strong remains my connection: feeling that tug in the autumn sky, my heart rising to meet it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fall Raptor Migration - August Roundup

August 2010 proved to be a good start to the fall raptor migration season at a majority of the sites that count this early, buoyed by strong early flights of Broad-winged Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks and, to a lesser extent, Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Even the American Kestrel, whose numbers have dropped precipitously in recent years, had some good August results and didn’t seem to be much worse than average elsewhere. Kestrels put in an extra-good show on the last day of August at Greenlaw Mtn. in New Brunswick with 21. Lighthouse Pt. in Connecticut tallied 32 kestrels during the month, the most in at least 10 years (I didn’t look back further than that). To give you an idea of how good that number is, their 10-year August average for kestrels is 5.6 and last year they had just 3.

Cadillac Mtn. in Maine had a strong August, their second best in the past 8 years. Franklin Mtn. in New York was an exception to August’s overall strong results, turning in below average results for their efforts. Hawk Ridge in Duluth had nothing like the large August numbers they had last year, but with over 700 birds for the month, their results were still pretty good.

In Pennsylvania, Allegheny Front had something of an average August, but still posted strong Broad-winged Hawk results. Bake Oven Knob  had a strong August, posting more than double the number of broadwings they usually see during this month. Hawk Mountain had a banner month for Bald Eagle with 85, their best August total in at least 15 years (I didn’t check back further than that). Virtually everything that flies past their mountain did so in numbers higher and sometimes a lot higher than usual for August. Their big exception was the Northern Harrier, which had a weak August almost everywhere. Waggoner’s Gap also had a good month and was just about the only site to post harrier numbers higher than their August average.

The southerly sites, especially in Virginia, had a rough start to their seasons due to weather issues. Rockfish Gap tried to get in a count for several days before it stopped raining and the fog cleared.

In Massachusetts, which boasts a lot of sites, only Blueberry Hill attempted a count in August. In New Jersey, Wildcat and Raccoon Ridges count sporadically during August.

The number of sites that count in August is still pretty low compared with those that start in September. In August, the most sites reporting to HMANA’s HawkCount on any one day was 20, and that number will certainly double or triple starting, well, starting today. Let September begin!