Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What time is it? Hawk Watch Time!

Hawk watches are a great example of how citizen-scientists can have a positive impact on bird conservation.  The work of Hawk Watches cover the migration of raptors as they return to their winter grounds.  Like many birds, the return trip is different than the trip up and different raptors attempt types of voyages.  Some try to go solo and some try to go in groups.  Hawk Watches have told us several different things and also have alert us to the different plights of raptors around the continent but also a few success stories.  Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and Ospreys have made a tremendous recovery given their numbers while Kestrels and other raptors are facing a serious decline.

The keys to a successful Hawk Watch are easy.  Sorta.  First you study forms, you read books like Crossley's Raptor Guide (C) and Hawks in Flight (C).  Then I think the best thing to do is to bird and watch in the presence of people who know what they are doing.  The Connecticut Ornithological Association (COA) ran a great workshop and I am looking forward to more time doing a hawk watch.  Once you are out there, you hit the real challenges.  Raptors like to soar and glide around.  The keys to identifying these raptors become Behavior, Color, Tail, and Technique.  How can you tell the difference between a Red-Tailed and a Red-Shouldered Hawk when they are a mile high?  Well, Wings, behavior and timing become the keys.  Experience can teach you a lot about this.  Although,we will all still be tripped up by the Male Cooper's Hawk and the Female Sharp-Shinned Hawks.

In the mean time, I suggest getting out and finding a Hawk Watch

A Raptor Far Off

Getting a Great Lesson from the Connecticut Ornithological Association

A Bald Eagle looking like a Chocolate Sprinkle

An Osprey and a Bald Eagle fighting it out

Hawk Migration Association
Hawk Watch International
Hawk Count

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