Raptors of November

By Cyrus Moqtaderi, Ashland Hawk Watch Coordinator

The field-mark for the Red-tailed Hawk is quite evident: rusty red tail along with classic wide buteo wings. Image by Derek Stoner.

It’s nearly impossible to go through life without noticing one ubiquitous denizen of the sky: the Red-tailed Hawk. We see them circling above our farm fields, and hunting from our telephone poles, and at Ashland we’ve watched our resident birds soaring and diving all season long. But, come November, we begin to see this common hawk in a new light. As northern populations of Red-taileds begin to migrate south en masse we find ourselves playing spectator to the stunning beauty of this bird. In the warm tones of the November sun, a flight of high Red-taileds on the move is a stunning thing. We’ve already tallied over 600 and have most of the month to go. November belongs to the buteos, and there’s nothing quite like watching a kettle of Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks high in the clear blue sky.

A soaring Red-shouldered Hawk shows the distinctive white "window" crescents in the outer wings. Image by Derek Stoner.

There’s nothing quite like a kettle of Red-shouldered Hawks circling above on a bright November day. When the sun touches on their soaring wings, these birds shine like stained glass in the heavens. Two crescent-shaped portals and a bright banded tail make this hawk one of the most beautiful of the November migrants. Even more, this year brings the excitement of a possible record high, with our current count just a few shy of the past total of 331.  

A juvenile Golden Eagle flexes its massive, long wings as it glides by, leaving viewers slack-jawed. Image by Derek Stoner.
Simply whispering the words “Golden Eagle” on the hill is enough to bring a flurry of upturned heads and raised binoculars. This Western species stands as one of the highlights of a November day at the Ashland Hill. Once October turns, we find ourselves patiently scanning every far-off vulture kettle in the hopes of catching sight of an “odd-one-out.” On lucky days, such as we’ve had this October, one of these magnificent birds will stream overhead, seemingly close enough to grasp. We’re on an excellent start to our Golden Eagle season this year, already recording 7! This puts us 1 bird above our count at this time last year. With some luck, we’ll break our all-time high of 13.

A juvenile Northern Goshawk cruises by with powerful wingbeats. Image by Tom Munson.
This powerful hunter surely takes the prize for both the most sought after and most elusive bird of the Ashland Watch. This fierce accipiter (close relative of the more common accipiters, the Cooper’s and the Sharp-shinned Hawk) is a bird of the Northern woods, and we sit at the southernmost fringe of its range. Still, we’re blessed with a few incredible sightings each and every year at the watch, already having tallied 3! We’ve got a slight head-start on last year’s Goshawk numbers, with this year’s first sighting coming nearly two week early. With this, and a stronger than usual northern push, we should be really upping our chances at catching a glimpse of one of these incredible raptors!

Come to the Ashland Hawk Watch anytime before the end of November to enjoy the great late season raptor flights– and maybe catch a rarity like a Golden or Goshawk!   After this Sunday’s daylight savings time change, hawk watch hours will run from approximately 8:00am to 3:30pm. 

On Sunday, November 28, we will celebrate the end of the season at the Ashland Hawk Watch with a party!  Gather on the hill from 2:00pm until dusk and enjoy good company, snacks, and beverages.  After dark, we’ll head into the lodge for a great dinner featuring seasonal favorites.   Come join us to toast another successful season of hawk watching!

2 thoughts on “Raptors of November”

  1. Hi, I’m not seeing the Nov 28 event on the main DNS website. is there a charge? Do you need to reserve a spot for the dinner? Can you direct me to a link? Thanks!

  2. Mary Ellen-

    Just come on out on Sunday the 28th and join the party! It is a fun, free event to cap off the hawk watch season. We’ll be at Hawk Watch Hill until dusk, and then go into the lodge to eat dinner. If you’d like to bring a side dish to share for the dinner, that would welcomed.

    – Derek Stoner

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