Wednesday, January 13, 2016

HMANA Raptor ID Workshop 2016 - Be there or be.....

2014 HMANA ID Workshop at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
Come join HMANA for perhaps the only full scale tour in the country where the specific focus is improving your hawkwatching skills. The tour takes place in Western New York State in spring for good reason: unlike Fall, Spring Migration is an intense affair packed into a relatively short space of time. This compressed migration allows us to pick up early migrants like Red-shouldered Hawks, Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks as well as late season movers like Broad-winged Hawk all in the same week. 

The tour is aimed at those with some experience watching hawks but will be of value to anyone from beginner level on up. Having two expert leaders allows us to focus on the specific needs of individuals and to give hands on instruction in one-on-one scenarios. Previous participants have ranged from beginner hawkwatchers all the way through to counters at well-known hawkwatches. The main requirement is enthusiasm for time watching raptors.

Rough-legged Hawk from HMANA ID Workshop 2015 - Luke Tiller
As well as working on identification of raptors we will focus, where possible, on aging and sexing birds as well as discussing subspecies and plumage types. As well as being instructional tour guides Frank Nicoletti and Luke Tiller pride themselves on providing a fun and relaxed atmosphere conducive to learning about identifying hawks in flight. Visits to the BBRR banding stations will allow us to get up close and personal with a number of raptors and study some key identifiers in hand. 

Check out these incredible days from tours past: This one included 5000 raptors including 46 Rough-legged Hawks and two dark morph Swainson’s Hawks (hawkcount report here), and this one almost 5000 raptors including a sweep of all possible buteos: 67 Rough-legged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawk, Black Vulture, Krider’s and dark Red-tailed Hawks (hawkcount report here). 

Saw-whet Owl from HMANA ID Workshop 2014 - Luke Tiller
This year the tour is pushed back to a slightly later start date. This means that we have a better chance of encountering one of those big Broad-winged Hawk days that Braddock Bay is known for. You can read tour leader Luke Tiller’s write up of a Braddock Bay flight that fell into this tours time frame in a previous season on his blog (here), and if the birding gods really smile upon us there is always the chance of something like this 37K raptor flight being  repeated(read about it on Luke's blog here).

Frank and Luke have both counted at Braddock Bay and have intimate knowledge of the region and the weather systems which makes sure that the group gets absolutely the best experience on any specific day. When flight conditions are not optimal we will visit places like Montezuma NWR, a great site for raptors and more,
 to see where much of the work was undertaken to reintroduce Bald Eagles to New York State and beyond.

2014 HMANA ID Workshop at Braddock Bay - Luke Tiller
As well as diurnal raptors we will be looking out for owls, visiting the BBRR Saw-whet banding operation, keeping our eyes peeled for a late Snowy Owl and checking out places where Short-eared Owl often gather to hunt. As well as all the raptors we will hopefully witness some of the incredible sky-blackening flights of passerines that can be seen along the Great Lakes, and get some instruction on IDing these birds too, as well as looking for specialist species like Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes and a wealth of wintering and migrant birds.

You can check out reports from previous year’s tours on our website and 
find out how to make bookings for the tour (here). You can check out a photo album of some of last years tour (here).