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Jewel Basin 2017 – Anything but Average

by Dan Casey

Northern Goshawk juvenile – Photo Credit: BJ Worth

The 10th annual hawk migration survey at the Jewel Basin got off to a roaring start; we recorded birds at record rates from late August through Sept. 22nd. But just as we hit our usual peak season, the snows started to fall. As much as we welcomed the early season snow following a smoky fire season, the safety of our (mostly) volunteer workforce eventually pre-empted surveys during what is typically our peak season in late September and early October. Indeed, we managed just 11 surveys in October. Our final survey was conducted Oct 27th, but only because our all-star observer, Barbara Summer, braved the 93-switchback trail from the lower Jewel Basin Road to our alternative (lower) observation site.

How did this season stack up against previous efforts? We tallied 2,313 raptors over 42 surveys, averaging 9.5 birds per hour for the season (see table). That amounts to about 300 fewer birds, and 3 fewer surveys than our previous average efforts. Sharp-shinned Hawk was once again our most abundant species, with 1,024 counted (9-yr average: 1,207), and we had above average numbers of Cooper’s Hawks (390) and Red-tailed Hawks (216) this season, and set new single-season high totals for Bald Eagle (106), Northern Harrier (102), Prairie Falcon (12), and Swainson’s Hawk (3). And although Montana sites had stellar eagle migrations, our Golden Eagle count of just 212 was less than half of our long-term average. We have now tallied 26,248 raptors in 10 seasons at the Jewel Basin site. Our annual report, to be completed this winter, will include analysis of trends over the years and within species.

Thanks to all who participated this year, notably those who served as primary observers: Nickie Broesel, Dan Casey, Josh Covill, Diane Lundgren, Kathy Ross, Barbara Summer, Rod Wallette, and bj Worth. Their dedication keeps this valuable effort going, and our first season of on-site, real-time data entry was a resounding success!

Species Total Species Total Species Total
Turkey Vulture 1 Broad-winged Hawk 10 Merlin 15
Osprey 11 Swainson’s Hawk 3 Peregrine Falcon 11
Bald Eagle 105 Red-tailed Hawk 216 Prairie Falcon 12
Northern Harrier 102 Ferruginous Hawk 0 Gyrfalcon 0
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1,024 Rough-legged Hawk 9 Unidentified Falcon 5
Cooper’s Hawk 390 Unidentified Buteo 16 Unidentified Eagle 3
Northern Goshawk 24 Golden Eagle 212 Unidentified Raptor 15
Unidentified Accipiter 50 American Kestrel 78 TOTAL 2,313

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