Thursday, September 25, 2014

Visiting the Detroit River Hawk Watch

I had always wanted to visit a hawk watch but living in central Indiana, there's not really a great place to go that's close by. So when a friend invited me to join him at the Detroit River Hawk Watch while I was in northwest Ohio last week, I jumped at the chance! This trip also happened to coincide with the typical peak of Broad-winged Hawk migration which is the highlight of many hawk watches in the eastern US.

Each day, the hawk watch posts it's number online and when we saw that they had 68,000 Broad-winged Hawks the day before we were planning to go, we feared that we might have missed the major movement. Even so, we decided we should still head up to the count and see if maybe, there would still be a good migration the next day.

We arrived around 9am and the count started rather slow with only 44 raptors seen, none of which were Broad-wings. As it started to warm up outside and the thermals started to rise, the raptor movement quickly improved! Over the next several hours, we saw thousands of Broad-winged Hawks as well as 9 other raptor species.

A blurry photo of one of the American Kestrels that we saw during the hawk watch.

Sharp-shinned Hawks came by the hawk watch in good numbers with 264 tallied throughout the day.
We finally decided to take a break from the raptors and head into the woods near the watch to see if any passerines were moving. The woods were pretty quiet but we finally come upon a small flock that included a beautiful Golden-winged Warbler as well as single Wilson's and Tennessee Warblers, and Blue-headed Vireo.

When we got back to the hawk watch area, there were very few birds migrating over so we packed up and headed home. Only later did we find out what a huge mistake this was! In the hour after we left, the count tallied just over 30,000 Broad-winged Hawks! Even though we had a great day at the count and saw more hawks migrating than we had ever seen, we were very disappointed to have missed this major spectacle of migration. I guess this just means that I'll have to head back next fall and hope that I can be there on a day with even more migrants.

You can learn more about the Detroit River Hawk Watch on their website and can keep up with all of their reports on Hawkcount.org. You can also find a hawk watch near you on the Hawkcount.org website.

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