Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's Time for RAPTORTHON!

Spring has sprung, and it is time for another HMANA Raptorthon! Now in its third year, this fundraiser is fun and entertaining way to raise money and awareness for raptors and hawkwatching across North America. Some teams have already signed up and picked their dates for their big day. Consider forming a team of your own to support your local hawkwatch and HMANA.

This year my team, Braddock Bay Raptor Research (BBRR), will hold its Raptorthon on May 12, which falls during the latter part of the spring raptor migration. For the third spring in a row, we will attempt to count the most raptor species we can from the Braddock Bay hawkwatch, located on the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Last year BBRR earned the accomplishment of having counted the most raptor species out of all the teams that participated, and we hope to do it again! We were proud to have doubled our funds raised last year, and we were able to use the money to help build a new display board for our hawkwatch platform. This year our goal is to raise enough money to cover a sponsorship for our page, and to help cover our housing costs for our hawkwatcher.

Because the month of May is a great time to see Bald Eagles ring migration at Braddock Bay, this year’s Raptorthon event has taken on an eagle theme. BBRR will be holding several eagle related programs and activities for this “Eagle Day” including observation time with a live bald eagle named Liberty, who is an educational ambassador from the Institute for Environmental Learning in Hilton, NY. There will also be eagle crafts and activities for our younger visitors. Of course there will be hawkwatching, and there will also be a chance for people to “adopt” hawks that are banded at our raptor banding station.

There are many ways to conduct a Raptorthon, and you don’t need to be an experienced hawkwatcher or even have a favorite hawkwatch to do so. BBRR takes advantage of the fact that we conduct a spring hawk count and can utilize the beautiful Braddock Bay Park which is easily accessible to participants. Our goal is not only to raise much needed funds for our site and HMANA, but to also reach out to the community and share the enjoyment and importance of hawkwatching as a whole. A great thing about doing a Raptorthon is that you can create one to suit your needs. Visit HMANA’s website at for Raptorthon ideas, or to make a pledge to support the team of your choice.

Daena Ford
Co-Director, Braddock Bay Raptor Research
Membership Secretary, Hawk Migration Association of North America

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hawkwatching As Meditation

Gunning from Brockway Mountain, MichiganI’m occasionally reminded how unusual hawkwatching really is as a subculture of the birding world, to say nothing of society itself. Many of you probably find it as difficult as I do to fully explain to the uninitiated your compulsion to spend so much time in a single spot, looking for birds. As a counter, I hear it all too often, “Don’t you get bored up here?” But I don’t. This is not to say I don’t experience more than my fair share of boredom, especially on slow, hot, windless days where the world almost seems in stasis apart from the sun creeping a slow arc across the sky. (Or slow, cold days, for that matter!) But to say I am bored, generally speaking, even when firmly mired in a string of slow bird days, would be completely incorrect. Put simply, the questioner assumes motivations on my part that would not be sustainable in the long-term if they were my only reasons for going out to watch hawks. It’s not just hope for strong flights or rare species that keeps me coming back up the hill each day, because I’d probably spend many of my days there disappointed if that were so. Instead, I rarely ever feel more keenly alive, if you will, as when I’m out hawkwatching. And one of the reasons why is because hawkwatching, for me, is as much about a certain reverence for the passage of time seen most obviously in the change of the seasons. To stand in a single location for so long is to witness Magic, firsthand; a single location can exhibit an astonishing spectrum of personality throughout the year, one that is usually missed unless one is willing to stand there, receptively, and become part of what you see. The confluence of birds, foliage, and cloudform can be intoxicating! And I think anyone with loyalty to a particular hawkwatch, even one that might not command mind-blowing end-of-season figures most years, probably knows, at least subconsciously, what I speak of.

If all this is too “New Age” for your tastes, I apologize! But for so many of us, even those entrenched in analyzing the vast amount of data that hawkwatchers produce each season, I believe that there is an almost spiritual underpinning for our passion, one core to our reasons for spending some slice of our lives doing this and not some other activity. With many spring sites now online and posting daily to HawkCount, I find myself with a bit of Zugunruhe as I prepare to depart to the Midwest US to conduct my own count. Or, perhaps, it’s really just a twinge of envy for those hawkwatchers fortunate enough to have counts that start earlier than mine. In any case, my feeling is not logical, and I suspect I’m not the only one who feels this way. So I share some of my feelings for why I do what I do should you have the same yearnings each year to use your time at your favorite hawkwatch to take in as much of the world around as you possible; and, if only for a moment, to see past many of the expectations we impose on ourselves and simply Enjoy.

From all of us at HMANA,
May spring bring you spirited flight!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Hawk Migration Studies arriving soon!

After a non-winter here in Pennsylvania that felt like a never-ending November, spring feels long overdue even though it’s arriving early. The first spring hawkwatches are already open and counting hawks. And with that is soon to come the spring issue of Hawk Migration Studies.

Here’s just a little of what you will find inside. Greg Grove analyzes years of winter raptor surveys and reports on findings. Arthur Green tells us about his fall hawkwatching season in the Republic of Georgia. How does more than 800,000 birds sound? Janice Sweet reports on a not-so-great 2010 fall season at the Illinois Beach hawkwatch. HMANA’s new board and officers are listed, and former Chair Will Weber is back as the new board chair for 2012, so his Will’s Quills column is back, too. Julie Brown reports on the new Raptor Population Index trend analysis that includes lots more hawkwatches and hawkwatch data. And all the new from the flyway reports are there, too. Of course.

Look for the spring HMS coming soon to your mailbox.