Delaware -(Ammoland.com)- As the summer season slowly fades and an autumn chill returns to the air in Delaware, thousands of migrating raptors will travel south over the state on their way to warmer winter climes.
Each fall, raptor enthusiasts rejoice as they flock to the First State’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 & Wildlife, in partnership with the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society and Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation – begins, 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. 29 at these two sites watching for, identifying and counting raptors.
“As raptors migrate through Delaware in the fall, these birds can be observed in much higher concentrations than other times of year, so the viewing opportunities are extraordinary,” said Kate Fleming, wildlife biologist for the Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Species Research and Conservation Program. “The Hawk Watches can provide an opportunity to observe rare species, but it’s just as exciting to get a chance to view species like broad-winged hawks coming through by the thousands at Ashland Nature Center or the family groups of ospreys catching fish around Cape Henlopen.”
Since 2010, 18 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. They make daily recordings of weather conditions, peak flight periods and flight height of the birds.
“The data collected through the Hawk Watches allows us to understand factors about raptor migration in Delaware that in turn allows us to develop conservation actions to best protect these species, especially during this risky period of migration,” Fleming said.
Data collected during the fall migration season is used to support conservation management of 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.
“Both birders and non-birders are welcome and can help look for the birds – the sky is very big and birds can come from several directions. Many birders in the state have sharpened their hawk-watching skills by helping out, and everyone has learned how important Delaware is as a migratory pathway for these raptors as they move south,” 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 raptor migration or to volunteer to spot and identify the birds. For Cape Henlopen State Park, park entrance fees apply.
To volunteer, contact Derek Stoner, Ashland Hawk Watch, at 302-239-2334, ext. 106, or Sue Gruver, Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch, at 302-645-6390.
For more information about the 2015 Hawk Watch, please contact Kate Fleming at 302-735-8658.