Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife announces 2012 Hawk Watch
to begin Sept. 1 at Ashland Nature Center, Cape Henlopen
DOVER (Aug. 21, 2012) – 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. And 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.
For 2012, the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society, and Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, announced today that hawk watch season will begin Saturday, Sept. 1 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 at these two sites watching for, identifying and counting hawks.
“Each day of the hawk watch season can bring excitement. At the Ashland Hawk Watch on a warm September morning you might witness the spectacle of more than a thousand migrating broad-winged hawks as they pass over on their way to the tropics,” said Anthony Gonzon, wildlife biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program. “Cooler days in October at the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch have potential to be visited by hundreds of American kestrels as they quickly zip low over the dunes, moving south along the coast.”
Since 2010, 16 species of raptors were tallied between the two stations, including uncommon migrants like northern goshawk, Swainson’s hawk, and golden eagle. 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 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, volunteers record weather conditions, peak flight periods and flight height of the birds.
“Each year we learn so much about the migration of these magnificent birds as they pass through our state, and no two years are exactly the same,” Gonzon said. “With data collected each fall, we move closer to understanding the seasonal movement of migrating raptors and what actions we can take to ensure their safe journey while contributing to a larger regional effort to assess the health of each species’ population.”
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 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 hawk watches are the perfect combination of research and volunteering,” said Matthew Sarver, Delmarva Ornithological Society president. “Both sites receive heavy visitation and visitors are generally fascinated by the spectacle of raptor migration. It's a great opportunity to involve the public with birds while gathering critical data."
“This has been an incredible opportunity for DOS members to sharpen their hawk-watching skills as they contribute to the avian knowledge of the state, the region, and the country,” added Sally O’Byrne, DOS Hawk Watch Committee chair. “The two hawk watches have become centers of 'raptor flight ID at a distance' for area birders as well as a way for DOS to add to conservation science.”
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.
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 2012 Hawk Watch program, contact Anthony Gonzon at 302-735-8673.
Vol. 42, No. 323