DNREC: Hawk Watch Starts This Week - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DNREC: Hawk Watch Starts This Week

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DOVER, Del. – It is that time of year.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says that in the fall one can find thousands of hawks, falcons, eagles, ospreys, and vultures in the First State as they head south.

This year's hawk watch, sponsored by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, in partnership with Delmarva Ornithological Society, Delaware Nature Society and Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, began this week at Delaware Nature Society's Ashland Nature Center near Hockessin and at Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes.

“There can be something new and exciting on any given day at either of our Hawk Watches, from the rare Mississippi kite to thousands of broad-winged hawks to majestic bald and golden eagles,” Kevin Kalasz said, program manager for Biodiversity with the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Species Research and Conservation Program. “Peregrine falcons can be viewed on route from Cape May at the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch.”

According to DNREC, since 2010,17 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, DNREC said. 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.

Each day, DNREC said volunteers record weather conditions, peak flight periods and flight height of the birds.

“The Hawk Watch data is critical to our understanding of the raptor migration through Delaware,” Kalasz said. “With data collected each fall, we can better understand the resource needs of these species and develop and direct conservation actions to help protect their populations.”

Funding for the hawk watches is provided through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's State Wildlife Grant Program, according to DNREC. This program provides Delaware with 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 two hawk watches have provided a sense of community for bird watchers throughout the region as they have the opportunity to sharpen their hawk-watching skills while contributing to avian conservation in the state, the region and the country,” Sally O'Byrne, DOS Hawk Watch Committee chair, added.

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. For Cape Henlopen State Park, park entrance fees apply when in season, March 1-Nov. 30.

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 2014 Hawk Watch program, contact Kevin Kalasz at (302) 735-8667.

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