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An Unusual, but Successful Season at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch

Northern Goshawk juvenile – Photo Credit: BJ Worth

As 2016 comes to an end, Flathead Audubon volunteers and our funding partners have conducted nine years of season-long hawk migration surveys at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch. After recording 60 birds over four surveys during the last week of August, we conducted 22 surveys in September, including a six-day stretch (Sept 25-30) where 1,129 birds were counted! By October 3rd we had counted more birds (2,294) than during any previous migration season.

But just as the peak flights of Golden Eagles should have begun, we began a stretch of bad weather that limited surveys, and we were able to conduct only eight more before the end of October. It was looking like we might not even get 40 surveys done, which is our minimum target. With unseasonably nice weather in November, we got four more surveys done, the last of which (November 13th) was more than a week later than we had ever surveyed before. One payoff for the later surveys was an immature Gyrfalcon that came to the owl November 4th; another was that we counted record numbers of Bald Eagles this year, with 39 passing during the November surveys alone. We ended the season with 2,724 birds and 17 species during 236 hours of counts on 40 survey days. Although we averaged under 6 hours per survey due to weather problems, our season long passage rate of nearly 12 birds per hour was our best ever.

If you would like more information about the Hawk Watch, contact Dan Casey at 406-270-5941 or danielcasey55@gmail.com. A more detailed final report will be provided to the Flathead National Forest and the Flathead Audubon Board of Directors early in 2017. Our totals, with record counts in bold:

Turkey Vulture: 0
Osprey: 6
Bald Eagle: 91
Northern Harrier: 36
Sharp-shinned Hawk: 1,308
Cooper’s Hawk: 478
Northern Goshawk: 41
Accipiter, species: 93
Broad-winged Hawk: 26
Swainson’s Hawk: 1
Red-tailed Hawk: 181
Ferruginous Hawk: 1
Rough-legged Hawk: 25
Buteo, species: 11
Golden Eagle: 302
American Kestrel: 60
Merlin: 18
Peregrine Falcon: 14
Prairie Falcon: 10
Gyrfalcon: 1
Falcon, species: 2
Eagle, species: 1
Raptor, species: 18

Total

2,724

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