Ashland Hawk Watch Has Begun!

By Joe Sebastiani:  Members Program Team Leader

The 3rd annual Ashland Hawk Watch started on September 1st and runs to the last day of November.  The Delaware Nature Society has partnered with the Delmarva Ornithological Society, www.dosbirds.org, to make this daily hawk watch site an exciting reality.  The 2009 fall migration season has started off very well, with 302 raptors counted as of yesterday, including an ultra-rare Swallow-tailed Kite on September 6th.

Hawks, or more precisely, raptors, are counted as they migrate past Ashland, and data is collected for the Hawk Migration Association of North America, www.hmana.org, which compiles data from over 200 sites across the Americas.  The data that we collect assists with the overall understanding of raptor migration patterns and helps reveal population fluctuations. 

Observers scan the skies for raptors passing the Ashland Hawk Watch.
Observers scan the skies for raptors passing the Ashland Hawk Watch.

Yesterday, we quickly realized that it was going to be a great day to be looking for migrating raptors.  Early in the morning, a pair of Northern Harriers, quickly followed by an Osprey and a few Kestrels sent our Hawk Watch Coordinator, Cyrus Moqtaderi, scurrying up the hill to start the day’s count. 

Join Cyrus, this year's Hawk Watch Coordinator to spot migrant hawks, eagles, falcons, harriers, osprey, and many other birds.
Join Cyrus Moqtaderi, this year's Hawk Watch Coordinator, to spot migrant hawks, eagles, falcons, harriers, osprey, and many other birds. Cyrus works 5-days a week at the Ashland Hawk Watch, and on other days, volunteer counters from the Delmarva Ornithological Society are present.

Soon, the partly cloudy skies produced what was the best flight of raptors that we have recorded in the first 10 days of September over the last 3 years.  It was an American Kestrel highway, with a record-breaking 43 seen for the day.  The previous high was 22 recorded on September 22, 2007.  Other birds yesterday included 8 Osprey, 9 Bald Eagle, 4 Northern Harrier, 16 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 8 Cooper’s Hawk, 2 Red-shouldered Hawk, 4 Broad-winged Hawk, 5 Merlin (1 shy of tying the record), and 1 Peregrine Falcon (plus one unidentified bird) for a total of 101 raptors for the day. 

A record-breaking one-day total of 43 American Kestrel flew past the Ashland Hawk Watch.
A record-breaking one-day total of 43 American Kestrel flew past the Ashland Hawk Watch yesterday.

 

This Merlin, a falcon only a little bigger than a Kestrel, cruised past the Hawk Watch closely, but very quickly.
This Merlin, a falcon only a little bigger than a Kestrel, cruised past the Hawk Watch closely, but very quickly. 5 of these falcons migrated past the Ashland Hawk Watch yesterday. The most we have ever had in one day is 6.

Local raptors that aren’t passing through were seen from the Hawk Watch as well.  These are not counted in the official tally of migrants.  We were entertained by a local Cooper’s Hawk jostling with a couple of American Crows.  The hawk’s attention was centered on one crow, while the other one kept its distance during the aerial maneuvering.  

A juvenile Cooper's Hawk plays around with an American Crow.  Is this play?  practice?  It is doubtful that it is attacking the crow to catch a meal.
A juvenile Cooper's Hawk goes after an American Crow. Is this play? Practice? Or is the hawk attacking the crow to catch a meal?

 

An American Crow fends off an attack from a juvenile Cooper's Hawk.
The American Crow reaches up to fend off an attack from the juvenile Cooper's Hawk.

Take some time this fall to visit the Ashland Hawk Watch!  The hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through November.  Come to watch the drama of the raptor migration spectacle, and experience the seasonal change at one of the most scenic locations in Delaware.  During the period of September 14 to 25, the bulk of the migrating Broad-winged Hawks will be coming through.  Last year we had a few days where over 1,000 passed by.  Other good times to visit are the few days following a cold front.  For more information about the Ashland Hawk Watch, visit http://delawarenaturesociety.org/hawkwatch.html.

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