Thursday, November 3, 2011

HawkCount Now and Forever

How important is HawkCount.org to you? Do you enter data to HawkCount during the migration season? Do you use it to find local sites or to stay up to date with what’s been seen at watchsites in your region or across the continent? How about the site profile pages detailing site descriptions, history and directions. Or maybe you enjoy viewing the watchsite stats like record days, max season counts and timing tables. HawkCount has a lot to offer and we know it’s a valuable resource to the hawkwatching community. But this free service takes a lot of effort to maintain which is why HMANA has launched a fundraiser this fall to help maintain and improve the database.

HawkCount.org requires constant effort to physically maintain servers, develop and improve functionality, create and update content, transfer data from paper to electronic form, implement elaborate curatorial procedures for archiving, backing up and releasing existing data, and to enhance the reports that users can obtain from it, among many other tasks. Not all of this work can be done by volunteers and costs are incurred by HMANA to maintain and improve the system.
And so we’re asking for help from the raptor enthusiasts that use and rely on it, YOU! HawkCount.org is largely your site! HMANA provides the framework, but you and your fellow hawk watchers count the hawks, enter the data, and view the results. Without your
contributions and interest there would be no HawkCount.
There are two ways to donate to HawkCount. You can sponsor a watchsite’s profile page or you can make a flat donation. Please visit www.HawkCount.org for more details.
Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed to Fund-raising Month in October! As of October 31, we have registered 26 site page sponsorships on 22 sites, and have raised over $3,000! This is a wonderful and welcome contribution to HawkCount costs and is much
appreciated.
Because we were off to a slow start at the beginning of October, we have extended “Fund-raising Month” until November 15 to give everyone extra time to help meet HawkCount’s immediate
fund-raising target of $5000. This includes keeping the Accipiter level sponsorships at the minimum $50 rate until November 15. After that, it will return to $100.

We hope you will help us reach our targets for HawkCount Fund-raising Month. Thank you for your support and for making the largest migration monitoring database in the world a success!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Fall Migration - September in New York

It’s seriously starting to look as though I won’t finish reporting on September’s raptor migration before the end of October. I’m sorry. I’m writing as fast as I can.

Today, we will examine the New York results for September. New York is perhaps better known as a good place for spring flights, but they have a good variety of fall flights and sites, too.

Going alphabetically I’m starting with Chestnut Ridge in Bedford. Congratulations! Chestnut Ridge set a September record in 2011 with 14,959 raptors counted. The site counted 12,915 Broad-winged Hawks and had two excellent days of 4-digit counts for that species. The best was September 17 with 9655 and the second best was the day before with 2595. Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin and Peregrine Falcon also set September records. The American Kestrel result of 224 was in the middle of the 7 years of data.

Fire Island didn’t do as well. Despite a strong number of counting hours in 2011, the results were the second lowest of the 9-year history of data in HawkCount with just 656 raptors counted. American Kestrel numbers were abysmal at the site with just 378, also the second lowest result. The lowest result was 212 in 2003 but that year the number of hours tallied in September was about a third of those in 2011. All other species were also counted in low numbers, so this time around the kestrel’s low count doesn’t stand alone. Better luck next year!

Franklin Mountain, Oneonta, had a better than average September, if not an overall record-breaking month. Sharp-shinned Hawk did top the list for the best September ever in 23 seasons there, with 232. The previous high September sharpie count of 231 was in 2007. Merlin and Peregrine Falcon also set September records, the merlin with 22 (previous high 18 in 2003) and the big falcon with 14 (previous high 13 in 2006). The little kestrel posted an above average result.

Hook Mountain counters and watchers are no doubt beside themselves with excitement after 2011. Not only did the site post a September record, it shattered the previous record into teeny, tiny little pieces. When all was said and counted, a total of 17,595 raptors were counted, of which 16,003 were Broad-winged Hawks. The best day by more than a long, long shot was September 17 with 14,670 broadwings. What’s interesting here is that the second “best” day was September 16 with just 1072 counted. No other day even approached 100 broadwings. Other species fell into the normal range for the most part, though Merlins set a record with 37 as did Red-shouldered Hawk with 16.

Lenoir Wildlife Sanctuary in Yonkers had a slightly below average September with a total of 861 raptors counted. Still, there were compensations—an early Golden Eagle on September 16 was pretty nice, and record September counts for Black Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk.

Marine Nature Study Area in Oceanside had a down year, despite a strong number of observation hours. Observers there counted 120 raptors, of which slightly more than half were Osprey. The site almost set a September record with Peregrine Falcon, with a count of 40; they missed tieing the record by 1 falcon.

Mount Peter in Warwick had a strong September, if not a record-breaking season. Of course, with more than 20 years of data, record-breaking months don’t come around every year. By my perusal, Mount Peter’s September 2011 was its sixth best, with 8115 raptors counted, 7360 of them Broad-winged Hawks. They had three good days of Broad-winged Hawk flights. The best was September 18 with 2170, but both September 17 and September 19 produced counts over 1000 broadwings. Peregrine Falcon set a record for the month with 11, nearly doubling the previous high of 6 recorded in several years. Kestrel and Merlin were both low, though kestrel was the worst, with the third worst September result over the site’s history.

Last, though only alphabetically, comes Summitville whose September count was also solidly above average with 2117 overall and 1824 Broad-winged Hawks. The highest count was September 16 with 528 total (505 were broadwings). The site’s second best day was a late one on September 25 with 471 total (436 broadwings). The Sharp-shinned Hawk count in September was the site’s best so far with 156; the previous best was 135.

Next: New Jersey

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Migration - September - Connecticut

Egad! For a small state, Connecticut has a lot of hawkwatches! Way to go, you guys! However, I’ve been forced by the length of my blog post to amend my plan of reporting on September results from both Connecticut and New York in this post. Instead, little Connecticut will stand alone this time around.

Although Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford now has just three years of September data, 2011 saw the number of hawks counted more than double last year’s previous high total. In just 35 hours of counting, 9116 hawks were tallied, of which 8513 were Broad-winged Hawks. Results for species other than Broadwings were lower than the previous years.

Botsford Hill in Bridgewater wasn’t nearly as fortunate. With a count of just 1431 raptors, their 2011 was well below average and well below their record September count of 9025 in 1993. Broadwings totaled 1245. The Sharp-shinned count was 101, slightly above average.

Chestnut Hill in Litchfield also had a down year, with just 2705 raptors tallied in September, 2623 of them Broadwings. Their record September was 2002 with 12,982 and their lowest season was the following year with just 420 birds for the month. It’s fair to say that September results at Chestnut Hill vary quite a bit from year to year!

Only one day of counting was reported at Flirt Hill in Easton this year, but the counter picked a good one. In 6 hours of counting on September 17, a record 1992 birds were tallied, of which 1951 were Broadwings. That was the highest total September count, even over the other 9 years that had a lot more hours of observation.

Johnnycake Mtn. near Burlington saw its second best September over 11 years of tallies. They had to put in a record number of hours, by a few, to reach 5385, though. They counted 5196 Broadwings during the month with the best day on September 18 with 5196. Their record September was 2005 with 6627 in about half the hours watched in 2011.

Lighthouse Point, New Haven, had a strong result in September 2011, though not a record. The count of 6448 was the best overall September since 1997, if well below the high count of 19,397 in 1986. The count needed both the Broad-winged Hawk and the Sharp-shinned Hawk tallies to reach that total. The Peregrine Falcon flight for September set a record, with 74, besting last year’s 61. Other species didn’t fare as well, and the kestrel count was a low one at 279. The kestrel flight reached a high of 2597 in 1993. The site has had lower kestrel counts, though most of those were during years with a lot fewer counting hours for the month.

Torrington’s Middle School had something of an average September with 2488 Broadwings and a total of 2643 raptors during the month. Other species were counted in lower numbers, too, though the hours spent counting was similar to previous years. Their best year was 2002 with 11,024.

Just 32.5 hours were posted this year to HawkCount from Poquonock (at least so far), and just 53 raptors were counted.

Quaker Ridge had a solid result in September 2011 with 10,605 raptors counted, of which 8343 were Broad-winged Hawks. They didn’t come close to their record September (and may never do so again) when they counted 42,608 in 1986. Kestrels had a low result with 186; only years with fewer hours of site coverage produced lower results for the little falcon.

Suffield Wildlife Management Area posted results for the first time in September 2011 and came up with 2022 raptors for the month in 28.5 hours of counting. The total included 1955 Broad-winged Hawks, of which 1893 flew on September 17.

And lastly, though only in an alphabetical list, comes White Memorial Foundation in Litchfield. They counted on just 4 days in 2011 and tallied 412 raptors, of which 354 were Broad-winged Hawks. Their best count was a total of 259 on September 16.

Next time I’ll post September results for New York, and if the post doesn’t run too long, I’ll at least start on the New Jersey results, too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - September in northern New England

It’s taken me (a lot) longer than I expected and has proved more time-consuming than I anticipated, but I am finally moving ahead with the September 2011 hawk migration roundup. In order to do it any kind of justice at all, the eastern sites will be broken up into several blog posts. Today the roundup will include New Brunswick and northern New England.

First, Greenlaw Mountain in New Brunswick has reason to be well thrilled with its September flight. September 2011 proved to be the best of their three years of counting, led by 5818 Broad-winged Hawks. Their big day was September 17 with 3311. With essentially the same number of counting hours, nearly all other species were also at record or near-record levels. The exception was the Merlin, with the lowest count of the three years.

Then we move into Maine, and the good news continues there, too. Cadillac Mountain posted its best-ever September results in the 9 years of data in HawkCount. Their broadwing count shattered their previous best, with 3262. No other year has even approached 1000 for the month. Their best day was September 17 with 3014. Most other species showed in the average range, with the exception of American Kestrel, which posted the second lowest result.

Next is New Hampshire and good news is still the order of the day. In its third year of counting, Carter Hill Observatory near Concord shattered its previous best September with a total of 11,330 raptors counted during the month. Of those, 10,622 were broadwings (previous best count was 1899). This site’s best broadwing day was September 18 with 7212, and September 19 was the second best with 1747. Other species breaking site records for September were Merlin, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Bald Eagle, Osprey and Cooper’s Hawk (though this last only by 1 bird).

The cheering continues at Pack Monadnock, Peterborough, with yet another record-setting broadwing flight and another monthly record. A record 11,822 broadwings were counted for the month, with the best day September 18 with 5208 and a second best day of 3544 on September 17. Those totals boosted the monthly count of all raptors to 13,235, besting the previous record—September 2007’s 9342. The only species with somewhat lower results in 2011 was the Bald Eagle, which was the fourth lowest total for the month.

Moving into Vermont, Putney Mountain posted its second best September with 4928, behind only 2003’s 5457. The Broad-winged Hawk flight was the third highest with 4009, just missing being the second highest total by 9 birds. Most other species were counted in higher than average numbers, with nothing counted in below average numbers.

Massachusetts will be the last state I report on today. In alphabetical order, the first is Barre Falls, posting its second best September over the 10 years of data with 6656 total and 5884 broadwings. The site’s best day was September 17 with 4411 broadwings. They aren’t likely to best the September 2005 record of 17,468 anytime soon. Sharp-shinned Hawks and American Kestrels had lower than average numbers. The rest of the species had solid results.

Blueberry Hill is next and that site’s September results were right in the middle of its 12 years of data in HawkCount. The total broadwing count for the month was 3334 with a best day of 1130 on September 17. The next day was the second best with 988. Their best September ever was in 2002 with 7739 total and 6777 broadwings. Osprey and Peregrine Falcon set September records, both by strong margins.

Mt. Wachusetts posted low results for the September. Only two years out of their 10 years of data in HawkCount had lower results. The site posted lower hours for 2011, too, which likely contributed. The best broadwing day was 1600 on September 17, a far cry from the record-setting 12,117 in September 2002. One high point was the count of 4 Black Vultures, the first September to see any result for that species.

Mt. Watatic also had a disappointing total in 2011, posting its second lowest total in 10 years. Broadwings totaled 3195, with a best day of 1494 on September 10 and just 1139 on September 17, its second best day. Hours were about half what is typical for this site.

Shatterack Mountain had the lowest total in 7 years and the lowest number of hours, as well. In 2011 counters saw 1222 broadwings, the second lowest result. The site’s best day by far was September 18 with 718 broadwings.

In the next report I’ll cover Connecticut, New York and possibly New Jersey, depending on how long the post is by the time I reach that last state. Good hawkwatching!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ah, the Broadwings!

The annual lottery of which hawkwatch site gets to see the most Broad-winged Hawks, those unpredictable birds, is over for another fall. This year provided some interesting results, with a few sites not particularly well-known for their Broad-winged Hawk flights pulling down a few big days. And on the other end of the stick, sites with often large numbers of these hawks ended up with lesser or lackluster flights. But before I get too deep into the overall picture, let’s start with a roundup of the Great Lakes sites, whose routinely large flights can make the northeastern hawkwatchers green with envy.

Hawk Ridge’s (Minnesota) big day was September 15 with 12,790 Broad-winged Hawks. A second big day was September 19 with 6881. For September they tallied 32,675, which is on their low side of average, once you eliminate 2003, when they had a record-breaking 160,537 Broadwings, a total that’s far above the normal range for the site. Their big day total seems to fall into the mid-range category, too.

Next is Holiday Beach (Ontario), with a big day on September 16 with 23,480 Broadwings and a second big day on September 15 with 10,393. For the month they totaled 42,493 Broadwings, the best result there in 10 years.

Hawk Cliff (Ontario) had a big, big day on September 16 with 49,830 Broadwings. The next day was decent, too with 14,595. The September total was 72,221, their fourth highest total, though well behind the 135,329 of September 2000.

And then there’s Lake Erie Metropark (Michigan). Please sit down now if you’re not already sitting. They tallied 190,121 broadwings on September 17, a spectacular day, their biggest broadwing flight ever, more than doubling their previous (and not at all shabby) best flight of 91,471 set in September 2002. Oddly, they didn’t have a second big day this year. Their next highest broadwing total was 2199 on September 25.

Next blog entry I’ll talk about the eastern sites and how they did with Broadwings this year.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - September 2-8

Hurricanes Irene, Katia and Lee were the major players in this past week's fall hawk migration. Unless you were lucky enough to be at one of the midwestern sites, there wasn’t much to cheer about this week. The impact of these storms caused many watches to shut down for 2-3 days, and often the days surrounding the shutdowns weren’t very good either.

The midwestern sites did have some excellent days, particularly for American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks. Hawk Ridge, near Duluth, had several outstanding days, with the best on September 4. That day the watch counted 2165 birds, including 1859 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 107 American Kestrels. Hawk Ridge also had a super kestrel flight, that one on September 9 with 152. This site also had two great Bald Eagles flights, on September 7 and 8 with 62 and then 52 birds.

Hawk Cliff and Holiday Beach, both in Ontario, also had some outstanding flights. Holiday Beach counted 62 American Kestrels on two consecutive days September 5 and again on September 6. Hawk Cliff counted 103 kestrels on September 5 and 92 the following day.

One species not being counted very much at all so far is the Broad-winged Hawk By my quick and dirty tally, just 731 were counted for the entire month thus far at all the reporting sites. To compare, the month to date tally for Sharp-shinned Hawks is 5527, and even kestrels total 976. Presumably, the broadwing total should take a pretty dramatic upturn this next week, assuming there aren’t more hurricanes to contend with.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - August 26-September 1 and the August Roundup

Hurricane Irene put a damper on many of the eastern U.S hawkwatching sites for a while this past week. Still, the week had more than a few interesting sightings, both in numbers and species.

Hawk Mountain spied the season’s first Golden Eagle, an adult, on August 29, and the next day, Waggoner’s Gap, some 90 miles or so down ridge, also saw an adult Golden Eagle. Naturally, people are wondering if it is the same bird. And then two days later, back east towards Hawk Mountain, but this time at Second Mountain, four experienced hawkwatchers saw a “raggedy” adult Golden Eagle heading west. So did the first bird pull a “fooler” on everyone and head back east again or did we have two different adult Golden Eagles? That’s probably not one we’ll ever know the answer for.

Not to be outdone with unusual August species, Hawk Ridge, Duluth, saw the first Northern Goshawk of the season, also on August 29. Cadillac Mountain in Maine also found a goshawk, this one on August 31.

In taking a quick look at August as a whole, the total number of raptors counted at many of the sites is on the low side, sometimes approaching average at best, though Bald Eagles are still setting records. Bake Oven Knob, Waggoner’s Gap and Allegheny Front, all Pennsylvania, and Franklin Mountain, New York, each appear to have set August records for the species. Franklin Mtn. counted 30, well over their previous August high of 19 in 2008. Waggoner’s Gap counted 101, smashing the 2009 August record of 87. Bake Oven just edged over its old August record of 67 (with 68 this year), and Allegheny Front counted 25 (former record was 23).

Broad-winged Hawks were counted in fairly low numbers at virtually all the sites in August. American Kestrels, always a species of concern, had its ups and downs at the sites during August—except at Hawk Ridge where they counted 194. That’s not an August record—that would be the 270 seen in August 2002—but it’s the third highest August record there. At Hawk Cliff, Ontario, an astounding 73 kestrels were counted just on August 28 alone. That’s certainly the single day August record for that site.

Corpus Christi, Texas, tallied a nice Mississippi Kite total, though not a record, with 16,467. The site had just 68 broadwings during August, when the totals have ranged anywhere between 1 and 623. I expect that number to be considerably higher by the end of the new month.

What will September bring? I hope the new month brings a lot more hawks. Certainly, it will bring the opening of a lot more hawkwatches. And as long as September doesn’t bring another hurricane, that would be much appreciated.

Late note:  Two northern sites, Greenlaw Mtn. in New Brunswick and Maine's Cadillac Mtn. posted triple digits counts on September 1.  The birds are on their way!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fall Hawkwatching - August 19-25

The fourth week of August produced a couple of days of nice hawkwatching. The northern sites had two good days—August 21 and 22. Corpus Christi’s best day was August 24, when they reported 1060 Mississippi kites.

At the northern sites, a total of 85 Bald Eagles were counted on the 22nd, with Bake Oven and nearby Hawk Mountain Pennsylvania leading the way each with 16. Waggoner’s Gap wasn’t far behind with 14 counted that day. The same day also saw Hawk Mountain count 26 American Kestrels, more than half of the total 48 counted through all the sites.

When it comes to eagles, Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minnesota, now has the daily high count of the season so far, with 23 seen on August 24, a third of the 73 total birds counted that day. Their best day of the week overall was August 22 with 170 total raptors.

Osprey counts are also trending upwards, the best day saw a total of 51 counted across 19 sites on August 22. A total of 162 Broad-winged Hawks were counted on August 21, but no one site had the bulk of that number.

More watches opened up this week, though some are not yet counting daily. Washington Monument, Maryland; Tussey Mountain, Pennsylvania; Chestnut Ridge and Franklin Mtn., both New York, and Quaker Ridge, Connecticut, are the ones that seem to be reporting daily to HawkCount this week.

Hurricane Irene will likely shut down most of the eastern sites this weekend, so any birds that fly will either move ahead of that storm or slip to the west. Perhaps the Great Lakes sites or even Allegheny Front will see some action.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fall hawkwatching - Week of August 11-18

The fall hawkwatching season is already gathering speed, picking up more sites, more raptors and more species along the way. Since last week, another four sites have started reporting data, and the first Red-shouldered Hawks, Mississippi and Swallow-tailed Kites, Merlin and Peregrine Falcons were tallied, along with both vultures.

Bald Eagles are again being counted in strong numbers, strong enough that if the trend continues, 2011 may well be another banner or record-breaking year for them. Broad-winged Hawks are also starting to be seen in double-digits this week.

Corpus Christi, Texas; Hawk Ridge, Minnesota; Bake Oven Knob, Pennsylvania, and Cadillac Mountain, Maine, are now open. The best day of the past week was Tuesday, August 16, when much of the eastern U.S. was under a nice, little high pressure system. The total number of raptors seen at the ten reporting sites that day was 207, including a total of 18 Bald Eagles and 94 Broad-winged Hawks, 50 of which were seen at Pennsylvania’s Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, currently the season’s leader in total raptors with 230.

Waggoner’s Gap, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has the highest eagle count with 29 seen so far this season, though Bake Oven Knob had the highest single day count with 9 on August 16.

At Corpus Christi, the kites, mostly Mississippi and Swallow-tailed, are accounting for the majority of their sightings so far. Their best day this week was their first reporting day of August 15 with 107 total raptors, of which 96 were kites.

The hawkwatching floodgates will really open on September 1, which is the starting day for the majority of hawkwatches. The weekend forecast doesn’t strike me as ideal for hawkwatching, but whenever the next cold front moves down, a nice number of raptors should come with it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Raptor Migration Fall Season 2011 - Week 2

Is the improving weather along the east coast responsible for hawkwatch leaders wanting to get out and see what’s flying? Or is it just that they can’t wait to see a few hawks?

Whatever the motivation, six hawkwatches have already started counting for the fall season—four in Pennsylvania and one each in Maryland and Virginia. Typically, sites are not yet counting for full days and are often reporting for just 2-4 hours of the day.

So what are these “early bird” sites seeing? Waggoner’s Gap near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, has already reported on 8 count days, the most so far, with the number of hours ranging between 3-7 hours in a day. They’ve counted 11 bald eagles, exactly 25% of the total 44 birds seen. Broad-winged Hawks are also reported at 11 birds, so those two species account for half of their total. American Kestrels and Red-tailed Hawks make up most of the rest of the sightings.

Second Mountain, not far west of Hawk Mountain, has counted on 3 days of the new season so far, finding 7 birds, 3 of them Red-tailed Hawks. The other sites have all reported counts on just one day so far. Four sites reported for August 10, making it the best day of the season, both for the number of sites covered and the number of raptors seen. A total of 26 raptors were counted, of which 9 were kestrels, 6 broadwings and 4 bald eagles (all at Waggoner’s Gap).
And what will next week bring? As we start to move deeper into the season and more hawkwatches open, you can certainly bet on more hawks!

Do you have any fall migration photos you'd like to share?  If so, please send them to me at falcon07 at ptd dot net.  I'll post 1-2 a week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First hawkwatches open!

The first fall hawkwatches of the season have opened!

Two Pennsylvania sites, Second Mountain and Waggoner’s Gap, have already posted sightings to HawkCount. Waggoner’s counted 2 Broad-winged Hawks and 3 Red-tailed Hawks on August 1. Second Mountain opened, fittingly, on August 2 and saw 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks and 1 redtail.

Be sure to bookmark this blog so you can keep up with all of the action from fall 2011. Once the new migration season gets rolling, Hawk Migration News will post a wrap-up and highlights of the current week’s best and most exciting hawkwatching news!

If you get any unusual or interesting photos while on a hawkwatch, be sure to send them to falcon07 at ptd dot net, and maybe you'll see them posted here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

HawkWatch Fund off to a Great Start!

HMANA’s new HawkWatch Fund took flight this spring and it was a huge success.

Thank you to all who contributed to the HawkWatch Fund through this spring’s Raptorthon event. In addition to Raptorthon participants and sponsor contributions, every dollar raised for the fund was generously matched by the HMANA board. Woohoo!

We now have $2,585 to put towards our annual grant for watchsite assistance. Whether it’s educational materials and displays, construction and maintenance of viewing platforms, hiring hawkwatchers, or purchase of equipment, the HawkWatch Fund is designated to provide a helping hand to the watchsite community.

What kinds of grants would you like to see offered each year from HMANA? If you run a watchsite, what is your annual financial goal to sustain your site? Would you like to see an education grant to help purchase materials? We'd like to hear your thoughts and better understand how HMANA can best offer assistance to the monitoring community. Join the discussion on our new forum: www.hmana.org/forum

Thanks for helping us launch HawkWatch Fund. Stay tuned for more details this fall to learn how you can apply for funding for your site!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Looking for nominations

HMANA's Nominating Committee is soliciting suggestions for people who would be willing to serve on HMANA's board of directors.  Each year, the Nominating Committee prepares a list of interested candidates who are then voted on by the full HMANA membership.

If you think you or someone you know would be a good addition to the HMANA board, please contact David McNicholas at dmcnicholas@comcast.net. Include your own name and contact information, as well as the name and contact information of the person you wish to suggest.  You should include some brief information about the person being suggested and why they would make a good HMANA board member.
Names should be forwarded by early August to be considered during the upcoming fall HMANA election.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Another Successful Season for Raptorthon

In this photo, a Raptorthon team consults their Sibley Field Guide during an event led by Larry Harris at Plymouth Lake in Stillwater, NJ.

A big congratulations is in order to all those who participated in and contributed to this spring’s Raptorthon Challenge. It was a great success! Nine teams from across five states and Canada took part in their own one day events between March 1 - May 31. Some teams braved chilly winds and rain while others basked in sunshine as they helped raise money for raptors. And it was well worth it.

A total of $6,490.00 was raised during our spring event which will all benefit raptor research and conservation in various ways.
Here’s the breakdown:
$1,633.00 was distributed to participating watchsites or conservation organizations
$2,596.00 was allocated for HMANA programs like managing HawkCount.org and the Raptor Population Index Project
$2,261.00 was issued to our new HawkWatch Fund for watchsite support

Every dollar raised for the HawkWatch Fund during Raptorthon this spring was matched by the HMANA board. That means we now have $2,261.00 to put towards our annual grant for watchsite assistance! Whether it’s educational materials and displays, construction and maintenance of viewing platforms, hiring hawkwatchers, or purchase of equipment, this grant is designated to provide a helping hand to the watchsite community.

On behalf of HMANA, I’d like to thank all the individuals and teams who participated and/or contributed in the Spring Raptorthon Event. Whether you supported a participant for $5.00 or $500.00, or whether you organized a picnic event or an intensive 24hr race for the most species, it all helped us achieve our goal to raise funds and awareness for raptor monitoring and conservation. It is a continuous challenge finding funding for long-term raptor monitoring programs which are vital to conservation efforts, so thank you. We hope you’ll join us in making this event even more of a success again next spring.

If you’d like to read more about HMANA’s Raptorthon results, you can find team summaries and photos at www.hmana.org/raptorthon.

Friday, May 27, 2011

HMANA Tour: The Migration Spectacle at Cape May

There are few places as exciting as Cape May, NJ in fall, and mid-October, in particular, is a fabulous time to visit. Change is in the air all around the peninsula: falcon migration is in full swing, seabirds are migrating just offshore by the thousands, and songbird migrants from near and far find their way to land’s end. Cape May in fall has an incredibly high diversity of lingering songbirds, migrant raptors, and coastal specialties, and a regular handful of western vagrants make a trip to Cape May and the surrounding area the ultimate birding trip of the autumn season.

I am happy to announce that HMANA, together with NH-based tour company Merlin Enterprises, is offering a five day tour to Cape May October 16-20, 2011. My husband, Phil, who guides for Merlin Enterprises, and I, will be the tour leaders. This will be a birding and hawkwatching tour focusing on the spectacle of migration!

We’ll spend a significant amount of time at the Hawk Watch at Cape May Point, and we’ll also visit the Avalon Seawatch, which records millions of migrant seabirds each fall. In addition, we’ll make stops at a handful of other renowned locations including South Cape May Meadows, Higbee Beach, the Cape May and Brigantine National Wildlife Refuges, and the Cape May Bird Observatory’s research stations and visitor centers.

The large diversity of bird species and migratory spectacles, as well as good looks at many specialties, will ensure that this tour will be a fun and excellent opportunity for both beginners and advanced birders. Our days will be active and full, but we’ll take our time to enjoy the birds and habitats like sandy beaches, extensive salt marshes, pitch pine forests, and cedar swamps. If this isn’t enough reason to come to Cape May, you might be pleased enough to be surrounded by the town’s Victorian-era charm and quaint, coastal setting.

TOUR COST: $1295 per person. Single supplement of $235
THIS TRIP BEGINS AND ENDS IN PHILADELPHIA
Cost includes van transportation while in Philadelphia/New Jersey, lodging, ferry ride, handouts, fees, and meals. Tour is limited to 14 participants.

Please visit www.hmana.org/CapeMay for itinerary and further details. And please contact me, Julie Brown if you’d like more information at brown@hmana.org.
I hope you can join us!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Looking for a few good photos

Do you have an interesting photo you’d like to see in Hawk Migration Studies? We are looking for photos and not necessarily just those of raptors (though those are always welcome, too). Do you have a great shot that’s a view from a hawkwatch? How about a group of happy hawkwatchers? A bear (or moose or the like) crossing your watch? Does your site do educational outreach with kids and school groups? We’d like to know about that.

What kind of activities do you have the kids do when they come to visit your hawkwatch? Photos of kids having fun in the woods, on a hawkwatch or just enjoying nature would be great, too. As a caution, if children’s faces are recognizable, releases will be needed for the photos. Check with the school about the particulars needed. If children can’t be identified, releases are not required.

If you have a photo that you think we’d like, please send it to me at falcon07@ptd.net (that’s zero seven, not an “o”). For a photo to be used in the fall issue, I will need it by June 25. Photos received after that date will have to wait until the spring issue. Please send photos in .JPG format, not smaller than 500Kb and preferably over 1MB in size. Please include your full name and contact information. I’m looking forward to seeing what you might have.

Hawkwatches are fun places to hang out, even when the hawks aren’t flying, so we’d like to see some of that fun and some of what you see at your own hawkwatch. It sure won’t be as much fun as being there, but it’s a start.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Spring Kettles? Yes!

photo by S.Fogleman

From whence came the notion that Broad-wings don’t travel in kettles in spring migration? I’ve been puzzled by this belief which I’ve encountered several times over the last few days.

Here’s what has been happening in the northeast – specifically New England, upstate New York and southeastern Canada. Weather patterns were such that soaring, thermal-dependent migrants like Broad-winged Hawks were temporarily held up in their northward journey. On April 26, conditions began to improve, with big flights being recorded at places like Ripley (in NY). Perhaps Gil Randell will write about this in a future blog – he was a bit tied up counting and compiling so had to skip his turn in the current blog cycle! Check out http://www.hawkcount.org/ for the April 26 counts at Ripley and other NY and Canadian sites.

As weather improvements moved eastward, New England birding listservs began lighting up with reports of Broad-wings on the move “as soon as the sky began to clear” on the 27th. That day had started out with mizzle and fog early on, grey skies, no breeze. That’s when the comments regarding kettles started to hit me. I’d heard this “myth” before. And now reports from numerous birders included such remarks as “never have seen so many Broad-wings in spring migration,” “there were even kettles!” “these hawks [Broadies] don’t form kettles in the spring like they do in fall, so this was amazing!” “I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing kettles!”

Broad-wings do indeed form kettles during spring migration given good lift conditions. When there’s an elevator going up and you want to go up, you hop on, right? The thing about spring here in this part of the continent is that those birds which managed to survive the perils of the preceding 6 or 7 months comprise only a fraction of what we may have witnessed leaving in September, ergo fewer to speckle the sky in April, ergo smaller kettles by the time they get up here. This is the destination region – many birds are now at or nearly at their breeding territories. Weather patterns here in the spring time tend to produce more turbulence, hence unreliable “elevators.” However, given the right conditions – you bet! Kettles! And Wednesday, the 27th, was just what the hawks needed. Not only Broad-wings, by the way, but numerous birds of other species were on the move. Unfortunately there are no longer any official spring watch sites in NH, but accounts from various locations were posted on NH.Birds, and can probably be found there. Numbers from major counts in NY and Ontario posted to HawkCount were impressive: Braddock Bay 42235, Derby Hill 6319, Grimsby (Beamer) 5291. Were the Broad-wings in kettles? Oh, yes!

As the sky began to clear at my home in central NH (elevation 1200’) 228 hawks of 10 species were counted passing over our little piece of sky for the period of watching 1120 to 1430. Almost all the Broadies were in kettles, or at least saucepans!

Monday, April 18, 2011

The NorthEast Hawkwatch Community




Look at this map of hawkwatch sites across North America and it appears that the Northeast is the hawkwatching center of the universe. Sites contributing data to HawkCount.org are scattered from California to New Brunswick and from Alberta to Veracruz but the bulk of the watchsites fall in Massachusetts, Connecticut, southern New York and northern New Jersey. Why is that?

Studying the map of Northeast hawkwatches, you’d be inclined to think that these sites highlight the major migration corridors in the region – the Northeast coast and the Appalachian Mountains. That’s true, Northeast hawkwatches are situated in some of the best spots for observing and counting concentrations of raptors on migration but there’s another reason why there are so many hawkwatches in the Northeast. Quite simply, it’s where all the hawkwatchers and birders live! In a recent survey HMANA conducted amongst successful hawkwatches, we found that most sites are within 40 miles or less of a major city (population >100,000).

Well as much as I could write about the need to fill in the gaps with more consistent hawkwatch coverage across the continent, like in the central and southern US, I’m not going to. Instead, I was inspired to write about the very tight knit northeast hawkwatching community after attending a recent conference. The NorthEast Hawk Watch (NEHW) Conference in Holyoke, MA took place earlier this month and the theme was “Hawk Watching in a Changing Landscape”. NEHW is a non-profit organization (a chapter of HMANA) and is run by volunteers. Its goals are similar to HMANA’s in that they aim to increase awareness, appreciation and protection of migratory birds of prey through collecting, organizing, publishing, and distributing hawk count data.
The conference offered an interesting mix of presentations on recent research efforts like Saw-whet Owl banding, breeding bird survey results and stopover ecology of accipiters. But there was also a less scientific emphasis, highlighting stories from long-running sites like Mount Peter, NY and Little Round Top, NH. I liked this mix of science and stories. It reminded me that hawkwatching is not all about the data, it’s first and foremost about the people. It’s about appreciating raptors and sharing that joy with others and this conference captured that perfectly.
It also made me think about the value and importance of a local hawkwatching chapter. Looking around the room, I saw ~80 people who had some connection with raptor migration; biologists, conservationists, educators, long-time hawkwatchers, new hawkwatchers or just people eager to learn a bit more about raptors and their migration through the region. I counted at least 20 site coordinators from various hawkwatches around the Northeast, many of which have been counting for 30+ years. I think that’s really special to have that many long-time hawkwatchers still enthusiastic about counting and still supporting local gatherings like this. NEHW played a big role in creating this tight-knit community.


At HMANA we are always searching for new ways to reach out to the hawkwatching community and to find better ways to support our members and the monitoring network. I think NEHW is a great model for developing other regional support groups across the continent. Having a local chapter or even a regional discussion board can offer many benefits. Just as HMANA works to provide support to the overall network, a local chapter can be a terrific resource for a regional network (finding places to hawkwatch, finding local volunteers, sharing stories about recent raptor numbers or weather patterns). Local conferences may also address specific regional issues that may not be covered in a broader, continental HMANA conference.


I think a great first step in forming some regional groups is the formation of HMANA’s new Hawkwatcher’s Exchange Forum. This page is just getting started this spring and is still a work in progress. I hope it will help connect raptor enthusiasts and get some good regional discussions going. Help us get the ball rolling! www.hmana.org/forum (see regional watchsite discussion board)

And for more information about NEHW or to become a member, visit http://www.battaly.com/nehw/. While you’re there, check out “A Brief History” by Neil Currie to learn more about the early hawkwatching days in the Northeast and how NEHW and HMANA were formed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ghosts of a Chance




I do much of my spring hawk watching on Plum Island, at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Massachusetts, where the stars are potentially hundreds of kestrels and maybe a dozen or more Merlins on a great flight day. Under optimal conditions, the birds are low, moving up the barrier beach, and providing spectacular views. Despite standing merely two or three feet above sea level, you are able to look down on dozens, occasionally hundreds, of falcons slicing into the wind (not all at once)!

However, most of the time, you are looking for a handful of individuals per day. Winds from the north or east are essentially the kiss of death. On sunny days with warm southwest winds, individual hawks may be soaring high into a clear blue sky and even pass unnoticed. If they are discovered, they are often classified in the same category as “noseeums.” Not rewarding to say the least. If the southwest winds aren’t very strong, a bone-chilling sea breeze kicks in, so you in your winter coat and gloves are looking at nothing while five miles inland people are working in their yards or gardens in t-shirts and shorts. The past two days with warm but weak southwest winds, counters had a total of 4 birds in about 8 hours. Even though we can’t see the water on the other side of the dunes, at least we did have several adult gannets right on the beach.

At Plum, we pray for strong, gusty winds somewhere out of the west, preferably west or northwest. It pushes birds towards the coast and keeps them low on the barrier beach. A good day has dozens of kestrels and handfuls of Merlins, while a great day can produce hundreds of kestrels and dozens of Merlins. Wednesday, April 8 proved to be one of the best hawk days I’ve ever had on the island. Over 390 hawks, including at least 306 kestrels, 10 Merlins, 2 Peregrines, a Bald Eagle, and 56 Northern Harriers.

I love harriers, one of my favorite hawks, but this flight was incredible. We had at least 28 adult males and 21 adult females, with 7 immature or unaged birds, and we had a feeling we were missing some birds going over the marsh low in the distance. Almost all these birds were on the deck, only several feet off the ground, and usually passing within 30-50 yards. I’ve never seen so many adult males in one day, or adult females, and so well. Normally, you don’t see the fine vermiculation on the adult males, but this day it was evident on almost every one, and the subtle shades of gray defy description. The females stood out for their mature, grayish brown backs and the notable streaking on their upper breasts. Several were the most grizzly grayish females I've ever seen. I saw more varied adult plumages, and more clearly, than I ever have seen before. (This likely is a state record count of Northern Harriers from my initial search, but a little more digging must be done to be sure.)

The kestrels alone would have made for a spectacular day, but the Gray Ghosts were just incredible. It is a bit sobering to have been hawk watching for almost forty years and realize that you have never seen anything close to this for one of your favorite species, and you are unlikely to ever do so again. I have just a ghost of a chance....


Photo courtesy of Joseph Kennedy. Used with permission.

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's just not very funny

Old man winter is playing an April Fool’s Day joke on hawkwatchers today.

I awake to snow everywhere, and I sort of suspect today won’t be the best spring migration day of the season.

I don’t think I’ll bother trying to go to Allegheny Front or Tussey Mtn.

So what’s happening up at Derby Hill and Braddock Bay? It’s a long drive but the weekend is ahead. Maybe it’s worth an emergency drive north. My goodness, they are getting rain. Nope, no hawkwatching there, either.

Well, is a cheap flight to Duluth available? Oops. It doesn’t matter if there is. It’s snowing there, too.

Let’s just hope this April Fool’s joke is Old Man Winter’s last hurrah for this year, so that we can all get back to more important things—like counting hawks!

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Joy of Spring Hawkwatching

“Keee-errrr, Keee-errrr, Keee-errr!” The wild sounds tumble out of the March sky as I stand on a late winter snowbank. In the warming provided by the climbing sun a softer sound can be heard all about as little clusters of snow break off the edges that line the roadsides and ditches. But the insistent calls of newly-arrived Red-shouldered Hawks demand attention, and to me are confirmation that despite lingering patches of the white stuff, Spring is indeed here. Spring hawkwatchers can be plagued by the fickleness of the season. Warm days tempting jacket-free watching can too quickly turn into blustery chill. Snow showers morph into powerful winds straight from the tundra. And then a Bluebird sings overhead and you remember why you really love doing this. Each day brings more exposed ground, and each day has its new spring messengers. One morning it’s Killdeer, and soon afterwards the Meadowlarks arrive. Male Harriers begin to float past, skimming the dried grasses protruding through the aging snow. Lit from below by bright snow-reflected sunlight, these almost magical visions drift silently toward the northeast.

Again: “Keee-errr, Keee-errr!" The Red-shoulders are in tumultuous courtship, breaking now and then to chase away a passing hawk. Occasionally they disappear behind the trees to the northeast where they no doubt reaffirm their bond, and perhaps add a sprig of greenery to their nest.

And now comes the loud “Keh-keh-keh-keh-keh” of one of the two pairs of Northern Goshawks whose territory boundaries apparently meet over the adjacent meadow. Dramatic courtship displays ensue. Deep wingbeats, loud vocalizations, and then a talon-grappling plummet catches me holding my breath as I wonder just how long the pair will dare the approaching earth before releasing their grip on each other.

Arrivals are following an almost precise calendar. Here are the Phoebes, the Song and White-throated Sparrows. And now the Tree Swallows. Overhead skeins of geese and other waterfowl aim their arrows northward. “KleeeKleeeKleeeKleeeKleee!” The Kestrels are back! And there, over to the west! The resident Red-tails are performing their own courtship maneuvers. One April morning the trill of a Savannah Sparrow welcomes us to the hill. Will this be the day the Broad-wings return? What an affirmation of Life spring hawkwatching provides!







above photo by Joseph Kennedy

Thursday, March 10, 2011

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Release of Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released a draft of its land-based wind energy guidelines along with the release of its draft eagle conservation plan. Comments on both drafts will be accepted through May 2011. HMANA’s conservation and education committee and its board of directors will be reviewing the guidelines over the next few months in preparation for meeting those deadlines.

A preliminary review of the draft land-based wind energy guidelines finds a document capable of establishing preconstruction study and post-construction monitoring parameters that can improve an understanding of the risks wind power projects pose to raptors (and other birds and bats). Both the American Bird Conservancy and the American Wind Energy Association have weighed in on the guidelines: ABC faults the guidelines because they are voluntary and not compulsory; AWEA complains that the guidelines diverge unduly from the recommendations of the Federal Advisory Committee convened to review and revise the original USFWS guidance. The AWEA also claims the current draft guidance would overly burden wind power developers and unnecessarily prolong the period required for environmental clearances.

If after a thorough review of the guidelines the favorable preliminary opinion of them holds, HMANA will comment strongly in their favor in the hope that HMANA support will help preserve their value.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A preview of the spring 2011 Hawk Migration Studies

The spring 2011 issue of Hawk Migration Studies will soon be in members’ hands. I’m always relieved when the last of the material arrives and is finished. I tell people that I give myself a week off before I will start thinking about the fall issue of HMS.

Since I’m not yet ready to think about the fall issue, I’ll give you a preview of what’s in store for the spring issue:

• Reestablishing the Curry Hammock hawkwatch in the Florida Keys. This site historically sees more Peregrine Falcons than anyplace else.

• What to do if an industrial wind power farm is planned near your hawkwatch.

• Tips from a few of the successful hawkwatches that you can use to help increase volunteers and visitors at your own site…as well as things that you can’t change that can still affect your site’s success. Based on a HMANA survey.

• What you missed if you didn’t join HMANA’s October trip to Costa Rica for hawkwatching and birding.

• The upcoming Northeast Hawkwatch conference

• Red-tailed Hawk sexing—it’s not as simple as size.

• Some great raptor writings from a talented, young counter, Henry Waters

• Kudos to Chimney Rock and Kiptopeke hawkwatches for reaching (and soon to reach) some big milestones.

• Lots of outstanding raptor photos.

• And much, much more…

This is a great spring issue, packed with lots of articles and photos. If you’re not a HMANA member please join now so you don’t miss out.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Birthday for the Birds

Looking for some inspiration to get you excited about HMANA’s Spring Raptorthon Challenge? Below is a summary from HMANA board member, Daena Ford describing her Raptorthon experience this past fall.

September 20 is my birthday. I typically do not go around announcing that to people. It’s not that I don’t like getting older, or hate having people ask my age. I simply don’t like to draw much attention to myself. So, I usually just sit back and let it arrive, and enjoy the greetings I get and the celebrations with those closest to me.
This year I decided to give myself a birthday gift, by spending part of the day doing something I enjoy which actually had the potential to help out the two organizations I volunteer for – Braddock Bay Raptor Research (BBRR) and the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). That gift was to participate in a Raptorthon. Basically it was an excuse to go out and do some birding, search for the magnificent raptors that inspire me, and spend some quality time with my daughter outside in nature. Not a bad gift if I do say so myself.
Raptorthon is a fundraising effort, organized by HMANA to raise funds for itself and hawk watch sites all across the continent, as well as serving as an outlet to raise awareness of raptors and their importance in our natural world. Anyone can participate in Raptorthon, either in the fall or spring (when raptors and other birds are migrating in great numbers), and choose which hawk watch or other conservation-based organization to support. Pledges and donations are collected based on how many species of raptors (and other birds if chosen) are counted.

My decision to do a Raptorthon in the fall might seem odd to anyone who knows that Braddock Bay is a spring hawk migration spot. I knew I certainly was not going to see the thousands of broad-winged hawks in September that we would typically see here in April. But, Braddock Bay is a great place to bird year-round and though raptors take a different route around the Lake Ontario in the fall, we still see many species of songbirds, waterfowl and other birds in great numbers. Besides being a great birding spot, it’s a great place to get outdoors and enjoy nature no matter what time of year. And that is precisely what happened on this birthday outing.
I started out with no real goal in mind, other than to see as many bird species as I could see. I knew that I probably would not see everything that was around, mainly since I was bringing my 3 year old daughter Emily with me. Don’t get me wrong…one of the best things about the day was that she was with me, and she is definitely a lover of the outdoors. She often finds things on our outings that others would just pass right by and not even notice (like the thumbnail sized tree frog she found on a cattail when she was barely 2). However, she is still 3 and is a very strong-willed, boisterous girl at times. Not to mention much of the time we refer to her as our little “bull in a China shop.” But she certainly does exhibit an excitement about some of the smallest things in nature, like a lily pad on a pond or caterpillar crossing our path, and I wish I could bottle that up and share it with everyone in this world.
I began the Raptorthon with the morning’s feeder birds, starting at 6:40 am (daylight savings time), as I was preparing breakfast and lunches for school and work in the kitchen. The first bird of the day was a female Northern Cardinal, who was later joined by a juvenile begging for its own breakfast. Other species that stopped by the Ford’s breakfast cafĂ© were a couple of Black-capped Chickadees, a male House Finch, and several House Sparrows. Unfortunately I was out of niger seed, and none of my regular American Goldfinches made an appearance that morning.
After getting my son off to the bus (wishing he was also joining us on our adventure), and completing morning chores, Emily and I set off in the car at 9:40 and traveled the 25 minute drive up to Braddock Bay. The drive is mostly expressway for us (I-390 and the Lake Ontario State Parkway) and that usually means we have a good chance of seeing the common roadside raptors – Red-tailed Hawks and American Kestrels. True to form we counted 2 Red-tails and 1 Kestrel on 390, and another Kestrel on the parkway. Other species picked up on the drive were American Crow, European Starling, Ring-billed Gull, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove and Rock Pigeon. No surprises there. Now we were up to 12 species.
Arriving at Braddock Bay I decided to make our first stop the passerine banding station at Braddock Bay Bird Observatory. What a good choice that was! North winds off the lake that would normally persuade me to just skip the hawkwatch at Braddock Bay all together in the spring were a blessing this day as they brought migrants right to us. The banding station was buzzing with activity. Emily and I enjoyed meeting several colorful species up close and personal, and also got to take a walk to accompany a few of the banding assistants on a net check. Emily was super careful while walking by the mist nets. “Mommy, look how careful I’m being,” she was quick to point out. (I admit I was very proud of her.) Below is a list of the birds we were fortunate to see, in the order we saw them:
· White-throated Sparrow
· Common Yellowthroat
· Lincoln’s Sparrow
· Red-eyed Vireo
· Tennessee Warbler
· Brown Creeper
· Black-throated Blue Warbler
· Gray-cheeked Thrush
· Golden-crowned Kinglet

We could only stay an hour at the banding station (had a lunch date with my husband), and bird bags were full when we left the station so we surely missed some other species. Never the less, I was super happy with what I saw, and equally as excited for Emily. The best bird for me was the Black-throated Blue Warbler, because it was one of the few warblers that Emily and I looked at in the field guide before we left that morning.
Up to 21 species now, we headed out to lunch by the way of Edgemere Drive which runs along a few of the ponds that are part of the Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area. There was not too much activity, but we did pick up a Turkey Vulture soaring, a couple of Great Blue Herons fishing, and Mallards and Mute Swans swimming.
After lunch we had just enough time to explore Burger Park on Hogan Point Road near Braddock Bay for about an hour. I had heard through the local birding listserv that there was an American Bittern spotted there the day before. We did not have luck finding the Bittern, but were able to pick up a Belted Kingfisher along Salmon Creek, a Downy Woodpecker and a few Red-winged Black-birds. The highlights of Burger Park this day though were not avian. The field of golden rod and asters was alive with Monarch butterflies, and it was simply mesmerizing to watch them. There also were, to Emily’s delight, several orange, fuzzy caterpillars (like a wooly bear with no black) crossing the gravel path as we walked, as well as grasshoppers which she tried in vain to catch. We also spotted a small, slender garter snake along the pond’s edge.
Unfortunately we had to leave around 1:30 in order to be home in time to meet Emily’s brother as he arrived home from school. So, our Raptorthon was done with 28 species of birds under our belt for the day. For most die-hard birders, that would be a disappointing tally. Though part of me wished for more, I was extremely satisfied with the day we had, knowing that if I had not decided to participate in this fundraiser for BBRR and HMANA, I probably would not have gotten as many “birthday presents” as I did that day – the birds, the butterflies, the beautiful weather, the chance to share it all with my daughter, and some support for BBRR and HMANA. I want to thank my sister and my parents who gave me pledges as birthday gifts to show their support for the organizations that are so important to me, and to the raptors.
Daena Ford

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Raptorthon Challenge

It’s that time of year again. The ponds may still be frozen and the snow may still be lingering in the back yard but birds are moving and some spring watchsites are already out there counting! (See recent hawkwatching reports on HawkCount.org). This spring, HMANA is celebrating migration with a new kind of Raptorthon event. From March 1 to May 31, 2011 we invite you to join us in finding the best place in North America and best date to find the most species of raptors in a single day. Maybe it’s somewhere in your town or state, or maybe you’d just like to get out for a fun day of birding and see what you find.

Raptorthon is a fun event, much like a regular Birdathon, but focused on raptors. Choose your own date and place, and get sponsors to support your efforts to find as many raptors, (and optionally other bird species) as possible in a 24-hour period. Get together with friends to help you find raptors, or go it alone. All participants get a free Raptorthon T-shirt. Of course, Raptorthon is also designed to raise money – to support HMANA’s and hawkwatchers’ work for raptors and hawkwatching throughout the Americas. It’s a great opportunity to support HMANA programs like HawkCount and RPI as well as your favorite local hawkwatch or conservation organization.

So many hawkwatches are struggling to stay afloat these days and HMANA is always looking for new ways to offer support. Not only can Raptorthon help raise money for your local site but it can also help raise money for the recently-formed HawkWatchFund. The purpose of HMANA’s HawkWatchFund is to provide grants to support hawkwatching and hawkwatch programs. Helping us get this important Fund started, a HMANA Board member has generously offered to match every HawkWatchFund dollar raised! You can learn more about it and how to contribute on the Raptorthon website.

I hope you will join me in our 2011 Raptorthon. If you are unable to take part yourself you can still support HMANA by sponsoring me (or other individuals or teams). Pledge online! I am looking forward to a good list of raptors (and other species) at Pondicherry NWR in New Hampshire on May 14th. (Look on the HMANA web site for more information about my Raptorthon). All forms, detailed instructions and how to sponsor a team are available at: www.hmana.org/raptorthon/. Register today and have fun!

photo: Kiptopeke hawkwatcher, Zak Poulton wearing his Raptorthon T-shirt during his Fall 2010 Event in Virginia.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

NorthEast Hawk Migration Conference Saturday, April 2, 2011, in Holyoke, MA


The NorthEast Hawk Watch (NEHW) will hold its 9th Northeast Hawk Migration Conference in Holyoke, Mass., on Saturday April 2, 2011. Anyone with an interest in hawks is encouraged to attend. This is the 9th conference organized by the NEHW since it was founded in 1971. NEHW held its first one-day conference on hawk migration in New England in 1978 and now organizes a regional conference every four years. This year’s conference was delayed a year so it did not conflict with the HMANA conference in Duluth last April.

The NorthEast Hawk Watch was originally founded as the New England Hawk Watch, to organize counts of migrating hawks over three weekends in the six New England states. Initially, the activity centered on western Connecticut and western Massachusetts, especially the Connecticut River Valley. Gradually, it spread throughout New England, and in 1991, it was expanded to the NorthEast Hawk Watch, including portions of eastern New York State and northern New Jersey.

The NEHW conferences offer a great opportunity for hawk watchers from across the northeast to get together to see presentations on what is happening with hawk migration in the region and talk with other hawk watchers. The conferences regularly draw attendees from as far away as southern New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ontario! Many attendees stay over Saturday night to bird hot spots in western Mass. and Connecticut on Sunday, before departing for home.

The program for the 2011 conference includes presentations on

  • The Decline of the American Kestrel in the Northeast by Larry Fischer
  • The Nesting American Kestrels of Manhattan Island by Robert DeCandido
  • Stopover Ecology of Migrating Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks in the Central Appalachians by Laurie Goodrich
  • Lazy Circles – An Approach to Counting Turkey Vultures in the Northeast U.S. by Arthur Green
  • The Hazards of Hawk Watching by Susan Fogleman
  • Mt. Peter – The Longest Running, All-Volunteer Fall Hawk Watch In The Country by Judith Cinquina
  • Scenes from the BP Oil Disaster by Shawn Carey
  • An extensive live birds-of-prey program by Wingmasters (Julie Anne Collier & Jim Parks)
  • And More....


The conference will be held at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Mass., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For complete information on the conference, including registration, information on the speakers, directions, accommodations, and more, visit <http://www.battaly.com/nehw/conference>

The first forty registrants will receive a free one-page hawk calendar at the conference!


(Photo courtesy of Joseph Kennedy. All rights reserved.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

‘Io, ‘Io, it’s off to hunt I go…

The names of Hawai’ian birds are so melodious. I love to say them: “I’iwi, Apapane, Ou.” And then there’s the ‘Io – a name given, no doubt, because of the bird’s high-pitched cry. The ‘Io, otherwise known as the Hawai’ian Hawk (Buteo solitarius), is the only hawk found in our fiftieth state. Osprey and Peregrine Falcon are rare vagrants from time to time, but the ‘Io is the island group’s only endemic.

Few of Hawai’i’s native bird species remain, and most of those are on the brink of extinction. Some, like the Nene goose, are benefiting from strong conservation efforts. Classified as endangered, the ‘Io is found only on the “Big Island,” Hawai’i. Hope for an increase in the population is marginal, as a breeding pair usually manages to fledge only a single chick, and competition with humans for appropriate habitat grows daily. The diet of the Hawai’ian Hawk includes insects, rodents, and birds.
About the size of a Broad-winged Hawk, the ‘Io in flight has an interesting “jizz.” From below, the bird’s silhouette is a little like that of a soaring Red-shouldered Hawk, with slightly forward-pointing wings. Bulging secondaries resemble those on a Red-tail. The tail is only finely barred and pale grey or taupe. In profile, this hawk soars with a distinct dihedral, and in some ways made me think of Zone-tailed Hawk. Hawai’ian Hawk has dark and light color morphs. On a recent trip to the Big Island I saw at least two, possibly three ‘Ios, all dark morphs. For a great look at a light-phase bird feasting on one of the ubiquitous [introduced] Common Mynas check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dx5GX1ajE1g&feature=youtube_gdata_player



dark phase Hawai'ian Hawk photo above by W.Fogleman, January 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Peregrine Falcon in the Snow

In January and February we travel back roads in western New York’s Amish country looking for wintering Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, and whatever else might be out there. Sometimes in one circuit of our approximately 60-mile route we’ll see as many as a dozen rough-legs and even more red-tails.

About a week ago, half-way through our rounds, we’d seen a bonded pair of red-tails and a few rough-legs, a rather disappointing sum of raptors, possibly because of the heavier than usual snow cover we’ve had over the last few months. Then, with light snow falling, we saw something very different from our usual raptors, a large, long-winged, pointed-winged, rapidly flapping bird coming toward us from a few hundred yards away. Suddenly, the bird wheeled in a full soar, not on a plane parallel to the earth, but, incredibly, on a plane perpendicular to the horizon, then plunged straight down as if to impale itself in the snowy landscape.

Our first winter-peregrine in western New York farm-country, far away from our southern Lake Erie raptor migration route, where we see a handful each year at our spring hawk watch, had taken a pigeon. We were able to get closer and watch from our car as the peregrine ate hungrily in the shallow cave she had made with the pigeon in the snow.

The excitement of a first sighting was over-shadowed by our awe at the quickness of the dramatic display of the falcon’s aerobatics. After the pigeon was taken, we had a chance to watch the feeding bird over several minutes, but the essential experience was our brief glimpse of the physics-defying flight of the plunging bird. What a wonderful moment!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Two Red-tailed Hawks and a Bald Eagle


Last week I was watching a pair of local nesting and wintering Red-tailed Hawks. The pair nested in a large white pine nearby last year, successfully raising one chick. During the summer, after their young had fledged, they built at least two additional nests, one of which at least was done with the active assistance of their recently fledged bird.


The pair has apparently remained near their nesting territory during the fall and winter and, over at least the past two months at least, the male has broken off branches (see photo above) and carried them to multiple nests, where he alone appears to place and work the branches into the nest. (Not very assiduously, however. Not much time is spent working the stick around the nest, and I have not seen the female land in the nest to rework the sticks at all during non-breeding season.) Their attention to their nesting territories is merited because I have seen at least 5 other Redtails in the immediate vicinity, including four birds that appear to be western-type Red-tailed Hawks, likely winterers from eastern Canada (they are much darker overall, with dark throats, heavy rufous bibs, much heavier belly bands, and much darker backs.)


I was particularly intrigued last Tuesday when I was observing the local male (and vice versa; he clearly recognizes and tolerates me). Suddenly he took off, flying low over me and small but dense woods in the direction of a nearby dam. I just figured he was gone hunting. Within seconds, however, I had a subadult Bald Eagle fly right over me at treetop level, followed by the male adult Red-tailed Hawk, flying low right behind the eagle like a school principal ready to crack down on the intruder if it did anything wrong. It was acting like a Red-winged Blackbird that attacks a passing Red-tailed Hawk in spring, except this time the hawk did not make direct contact with the eagle. On a highway, however, the hawk would have been arrested for tailgating.


As the birds got about 30 yards down from me, the male veered off from direct pursuit and turned to kite into the wind over the primary nest tree while his somewhat larger mate shot out of the woods and replaced him on the eagle’s butt. The female adult Redtail escorted the subadult eagle out of sight, but reappeared quickly over the trees and soared up to an altitude somewhat higher than her mate, where she kited into the wind high above her territory and her mate. The two birds “hung” there for what seemed several minutes. The eagle did not reappear.


This reminded me of last March, when the last migrant Bald Eagle that I saw locally that season, flew up along the east side of the lake, just above the treetops. As the eagle passed, Red-tailed Hawk after Red-tailed Hawk came out of the woods along the lake edge and hung in the sky, kiting into the wind, clearly making their claim to the territory beneath and warning the eagle to keep moving. It reminded me of the “dirigible wall” used in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century to warn of and discourage approaching enemy aircraft. It was almost comical. This time, however, I was impressed to see the Red-tailed Hawks’ aggressiveness in protection of their nesting territory early in January! Watching this pair of suburban Red-tailed Hawks year-round is fascinating.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Last Chance for Florida Birding with HMANA

There is still time to join HMANA this February for their Winter Raptor and Birding Tour through South Florida. The tour will run from February 5-12, 2011 and will visit all the top birding hotspots in southern Florida. Whether you’re a regular to that area or are looking for a new destination, this will be a fun and active week observing lots of wintering raptors and Florida specialties.

Please hurry! This Wednesday, January 5 is the LAST DAY for sign ups! Please see www.hmana.org/Florida/ for itinerary and more details or my recent blog post of December 1, 2010. Contact Julie Brown at brown@hmana.org to sign up. Hope to see you there!
photo: White Ibis by David McNicholas