Delaware DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Announces 2011 Hawk Watch

Delaware DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Announces 2011 Hawk Watch

Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife

Delaware –-( As summer transitions to fall and the days become shorter and cooler, thousands of migrating hawks, falcons and vultures make their annual journey south.

The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society, and Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, is excited to announce the start of the 2011 hawk watch season.

Thursday, Sept. 1 marks the first day for Delaware’s two established raptor migration monitoring sites, or hawk watches. Located 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 Wednesday, Nov. 30 watching for, identifying and counting hawks as they pass over. Fall migration for raptors in Delaware can be impressive with thousands of broad-winged hawks passing over northern Delaware at Ashland Nature Center in large kettles (groups of migrating hawks) or hundreds of falcons zipping by the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch.

In 2010, 14 species of raptors were tallied between the two stations, including uncommon migrants like northern goshawk and golden eagle. Daily sightings of red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, sharp-shinned hawk and American kestrels can be expected. Experienced counters will be manning both stations, supported by dozens of dedicated and skilled volunteers.

In addition to identifying and counting migrating raptors, the hawk watches are also responsible for collecting other data to better understand the timing, movement and behavior of these birds as they pass over Delaware. Each day, data are collected on weather conditions, peak flight periods and flight height of the hawks.

Matthew Sarver, President of the Delmarva Ornithological Society, the non-profit organization that administers both of the hawk watches through agreements with the other partners, called the hawk watches vital to both scientific data collection and public outreach. “Last year hundreds of visitors stopped by the hawk watch sites, and enjoyed learning about the spectacle of fall raptor migration in our state,” Sarver said. In addition to raptors, daily counts of other species of birds seen at the hawk watches are also kept, so a visit to the hawk watch can be a great way to learn about all sorts of birds and their fascinating migration behaviors, he added.

Funding for the hawk watches is provided through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s State Wildlife Grant Program. This program provides Delaware the resources necessary to conserve our Species of Greatest Conservation Need 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 can be used to support conservation management of these and other raptor species both in Delaware and the region.

Anthony Gonzon, wildlife biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program said, “The two Delaware hawk watches generate valuable information about the migration patterns of raptors and provide insight into the regional population status of these birds, helping us to assess what we can do in Delaware to support conservation of raptor species.”

Both the Ashland Nature Center Hawk Watch and the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch are open to the public, seven days a week. They typically operate 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 volunteer to spot and identify the birds.

For more information about the hawk watch program, please contact Anthony Gonzon at 302-735-8673. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Joe Sebastiani, Ashland Hawk Watch, at 302-239-2334, ext. 115, or Sue Gruver, Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch, at 302-645-6390.