Volunteers begin 2014 Hawk Watch at Ashland Nature Center, Cape Henlopen State Park
DOVER (Sept. 5, 2014) – As the summer season slowly fades and an autumn chill returns to the air in Delaware, thousands of migrating raptors will travel south over Delaware on their way to warmer winter climates. Each fall, First State raptor enthusiasts rejoice as they return to Delaware’s two established raptor migration monitoring sites, or hawk watches, to observe and count these hawks, falcons, eagles, ospreys, and vultures as they pass by.
This year’s hawk watch – sponsored by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society and Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation – began this week at Delaware Nature Society’s Ashland Nature Center near Hockessin and at Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes. Hawk watchers will spend nearly every day through Sunday, Nov. 30 at these two sites watching for, identifying and counting hawks.
“There can be something new and exciting on any given day at either of our Hawk Watches, from the rare Mississippi kite to thousands of broad-winged hawks to majestic bald and golden eagles,” said Kevin Kalasz, program manager for Biodiversity with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Species Research and Conservation Program. “Peregrine falcons can be viewed on route from Cape May at the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch.”
Since 2010, 17 species of raptors have been tallied between the two stations, including uncommon migrants like northern goshawks, Swainson’s hawks and golden eagles. Daily sightings of red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawks and American kestrels can be expected. Experienced counters will be staffing both stations, supported by dozens of dedicated and skilled volunteers.
In addition to identifying and counting migrating raptors, the hawk watchers collect other data to better understand the timing, movement and behavior of these birds as they pass over Delaware. Each day, volunteers record weather conditions, peak flight periods and flight height of the birds.
“The Hawk Watch data is critical to our understanding of the raptor migration through Delaware,” Kalasz said. “With data collected each fall, we can better understand the resource needs of these species and develop and direct conservation actions to help protect their populations.”
Funding for the hawk watches is provided through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program. This program provides Delaware with the resources necessary to conserve our species of greatest conservation need as identified in the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan. Nine of the raptors monitored at these sites are listed in the plan, including the osprey, bald eagle, Cooper’s hawk and peregrine falcon. Data collected during the fall migration season is used to support conservation management of these and other raptor species in Delaware and throughout the region. The annual Hawk Watch also offers unique experiences for volunteers as well as members of the public who visit the two sites.
“The two hawk watches have provided a sense of community for bird watchers throughout the region as they have the opportunity to sharpen their hawk-watching skills while contributing to avian conservation in the state, the region and the country,” added Sally O’Byrne, DOS Hawk Watch Committee chair.
Both the Ashland Nature Center Hawk Watch and the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch are open to the public seven days a week, from 9 a.m. through 3 p.m., depending on weather conditions. The best viewing times are mid-mornings beginning about Sept. 15. The public is invited to visit both stations and learn more about hawk migration or to volunteer to spot and identify the birds. For Cape Henlopen State Park, park entrance fees apply when in season, March 1-Nov. 30.
To volunteer, contact Joe Sebastiani, Ashland Hawk Watch at 302-239-2334, ext. 115, or Sue Gruver, Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch at 302-645-6390.
For more information about the 2014 Hawk Watch program, contact Kevin Kalasz at 302-735-8667.