Monday, December 23, 2013


Braddock Bay Hawkwatch Platform - Luke Tiller
2014 sees HMANA's 40th anniversary, and to celebrate we are holding our 40th Anniversary Conference: 40 years connecting hawks and people. The event will take place between April 25 and 27 at Braddock Bay, which is just north of Rochester, New York.

I was lucky enough to be counting at Greenwich Connecticut when we held our last conference in 2012 and so got to experience all the fun of the event from my home turf. Most exciting to me about Greenwich was getting to make connections with other raptor aficionados from across the country and beyond. Two years later I am still in regular touch with many of those participants and attendees and consider them friends made. That's not to say that there wasn't plenty else to enjoy including: a wonderfully humorous and passionate talk by key note speaker Pete Dunne, lively panel discussions, fun field trips and fascinating lectures. Though it will be a tough event to top, I am convinced next years event is lining up to be even better.

The conference next April already boasts two excellent keynote speakers in Keith L. Bildstein and Richard Crossley. Keith is the Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain and is renowned in the world of raptor conservation for his wide ranging research and accessible publications. As well as being the author of the Crossley ID Guide series (including this year's well received Crossley ID Guide: Raptors), Richards driving passion is to promote conservation by popularizing birding and I say what better way to popularize birding than to promote the coolest birds going: hawks, falcons and eagles!

Happy Hawkwatchers at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
As well as the keynote speakers there will be panel discussions on a variety of relevant topics, lectures on everything from how the latest technology is informing our understanding of raptor migration to how to develop outstanding educational programming. Apart from the talks, there will be workshops on raptor photography from some of the leading exponents in the field, classes on raptor identification from the experts out on the hawkwatch platform as well as field trips to local birding hotspots. There will also be additional more extensive field trips out to nearby birding hotspots and points of interest including the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Derby Hill and other nationally renowned sites like Montezuma NWR. All these events will be lead by expert local guides and it will also be a chance to meet the guides who lead for HMANA's national and international tour programs.

The festival also takes place the same weekend as our host organizations 'Bird of Prey Days' event, so other events over the weekend will include tours of the legendary Braddock Bay Raptor Research (website here) and Braddock Bay Bird Observatory’s (website here) banding stations, live bird of prey shows and opportunities to try out the latest optics and birding related products at the trade show among the myriad of other fun events.

The only way to count all the birds at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
If that wasn't enough to tempt you, the festival just happens to fall on the same magical date that has historically seen the two largest raptor flights in Braddock Bay Hawkwatches history: April 27th. Of course if we do have days either like this or like this it might be hard to drag yourself away from the hawkwatch platform to see all the other amazing events. If you can't imagine what counting a 40k bird flight is like, here is my write up of the big day on April 27th 2011 on my blog (here) which was also published in HMANA’s Hawk Migration Studies magazine.

Some more information about the event can be found on the HMANA website (here).  Bookings will go live from early January so look out for notices online, via email and in our forthcoming journal. I'm sure you are as excited as I am to get booking - look forward to seeing you all in Rochester in April!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hawk gifts for the holidays

On my own blog I've always thrown together some ideas for what to get the avid birder in your life for a Holiday Gift. This year I thought I try and pick out some rare gems that might be cherished by the most avid of your hawkwatching friends. Or maybe you can just add them to the list you send to Santa.

Hawkwatching T-shirts - Birdspot
Cool Apparel 
I know it’s winter, but nothing makes a HMANA Winter Raptor Survey (details here) go more smoothly than having a comfortable and super cool hawk t-shirt on beneath your layers of smartwool and silk long underwear. I may be a little biased, but I reckon there probably aren’t many super cool t-shirts designed by hawkwatchers for hawkwatchers; including my favorite ‘I watch hawks. For a living.’ You can find more cool hawkwatching shirts here.

For the ladies, perhaps something a little more swanky to wear: how about these super cute bird necklaces and earrings from Piper NYC (here).

And on the practical level: keep the sun off your head or neck, create a temporary sling, have a cloth for cleaning up spills and be able to twitch birds in dodgy Los Angeles neighborhoods (choose colors carefully). All that, and use that same item for identifying the raptor that just flew over your head: Hawk Mountain Hawk Bandana (here).

HMANA Membership, Hawkcount etc
Give the gift of giving. If you want to do something awesome for hawks, hawkwatches and hawkwatchers this holiday, perhaps a gift membership of the Hawk Migration Association of North America (membership page here), sign up to support the hawkcount page of your local hawkwatch (here) or if you really want to treat yourself perhaps join us for a trip to witness the majesty of hawk migration at Braddock Bay or the Florida Keys next year (here).

Though a classic in the UK (rated as one of the ten best British Movies of all time by the BFI) I don't think many US movie fans are aware of the wonderful Kes. The story line revolves a young teenage outsider who finds purpose when he starts to train a Kestrel he takes from a nest from a local farm. It's an awesome movie and probably the only one where a hawk takes center stage. It's also rated by the BFI as one of their top fifty children's films. Available on Amazon (here).

There have been a slew of excellent raptor ID books in recent years. The reworked classic Hawks in Flight and Jerry Liguori's two guides have set the bar pretty high. This year saw the release of the Crossley Raptor Guide. The guide takes Crossley's innovative approach to field guides and is a book any hawkwatching aficionado would want in their library (available in all good stores). You, or the recipient of the gift, can come and get it signed by Richard himself at the HMANA Conference in April (find out more here)

I've been lucky enough to be asked to review Conor Mark Jameson's Looking for the Goshawk. It's a fine read and definitely one that those with an interest in raptors and raptor conservation will have an interest in. It's combines being both nicely written as well as being informative.

Beyond the world of just raptors, the book of the year bird wise in many estimations is Mark Cocker's Birds and People. The book charts mans relationships with birds and their importance to us as simply food or as part of our recreation, art, origin stories and religion. The photography by David Tipling (website here) only adds to this fantastic tome. 
Adopt a Hawk - BBRR 
Adopt a Hawk
This always struck me as being the awesome gift for the birder/hawkwatcher who has everything - their own bird. Worth noting that you don't get to actually take the hawk home, as one of the 'adopters' at Braddock Bay thought one time - bless 'em. What you do get though is an awesome image of your bird a certificate with details on the bird and the promise that you will be updated if the bird is recaptured in the future. I know Hawk Ridge in Duluth have this as an option to support their work (here) and so does Braddock Bay Raptor Research (here) and I am sure there are others.