Field Reports

Follow the Raptor Migration

A birder peers through a spotting scope.

Harris Center Bird Conservation Director Phil Brown uses a spotting scope to get a better view of passing raptors.

Biologists regularly record up to 15 different raptor species from platform at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory. From mid-September through mid-October, significant daily and seasonal flights of Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, and Bald Eagles are possible. Mid-October through mid-November often brings Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks.

During the migration season, detailed reports — including hourly raptor count and weather data, non-raptor observations, special notes, season totals, and next-day forecasts — are posted at the end of each day on hawkcount.org, an online database managed by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). Historic migration data are also available via hawkcount.org, and you can find annual summaries of Pack Monadnock migration data from recent years here. Hawk Watch Coordinator Phil Brown also provides regular in-season updates below.

The Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory is a project of the Harris Center for Conservation Education, in partnership with the State of New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation. It was founded by New Hampshire Audubon.

Updates from the 2022 Season

September 19, 2022

Broad-winged Hawks Steal the Show…

A group of people watch for hawks from the platform at the Pack Mondnoack Raptor Observatory. (photo © Phil Brown)

With 4,987 Broad-winged Hawks tallied, September 17 was the second biggest day in 18 seasons of monitoring of Pack.
(photo © Phil Brown)

Mid-September is always an exciting time at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory. Over the past week, hundreds of hawk watchers, including several school groups, spent time at the Observatory. Many enjoyed a spectacular migration. The star of the September skies, as usual, was the Broad-winged Hawk, which gathers in huge ‘kettles’ during their annual fall migration to Central and South America.

Big Numbers

The flight that occurred at Pack on September 17 was rivaled by just one other in the 18-year history of the Observatory. At nearly 5,000 Broad-wingeds, we were just a few hundred hawks shy of the single-day record, set on September 18, 2011! After falling short all week of the really big numbers that Pack is known for in September, the skies opened up on Saturday, and Pack finally got its birds.

Raptor Release Day

Julie Brown holds a rehabilitated American Kestrel at Pack Monadnock's Raptor Release Day 2022. (photo © James Newsom)

Julie Brown holds an American Kestrel — one of five rehabilitated raptors released back to the wild at Pack Monadnock on September 18, 2022. (photo © James Newsom)

The day following the big flight was a much-awaited annual tradition: Raptor Release Day. In partnership with Wings of the Dawn Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, Harris Center staff and volunteers released five rehabilitated raptors back to the wild: two American Kestrels, two Broad-winged Hawks, and one Red-tailed Hawk. All were young birds that had been found either injured or unable to fly; Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn rehabilitated each bird and ensured that they were strong and able to fly well before the release.

We were particularly delighted to welcome Steven Muzzey and his family of Loudon, who were in attendance to witness the release of the Red-tailed Hawk they found on a disc golf course in Pittsfield, NH.

Before their return to the wild, Harris Center naturalists and volunteers showed each bird on the glove, sharing natural history information with the rapt crowd. Several of the hawks gave long looks as they circled the summit and seemed to enjoy their newfound sense of freedom.

Hawks on the Move

A Broad-winged Hawk, wearing a satellite transmitter. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Nubanusit, sporting her new satellite transmitter in June 2022.
(photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Four of the five Broad-winged Hawks tagged on their SuperSanctuary nesting grounds through the Harris Center’s project with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary have now checked in from various points along their migration routes. Thanks to the use of satellite and cellular transmitters, we can track the migration of these birds and determine precise information about their movements and habitat use. (One transmitter that was affixed last year seems to have failed or been removed, though the bird was seen on its breeding territory in the SuperSanctuary this past summer.)

“Nubanusit,” a female banded on Harris Center-conserved land in Antrim in late June, passed right over Hawk Mountain on September 15. “Skatutakee,” another female tagged in Dublin, passed over New York State on the same date. On September 18, both birds checked in near Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. You can follow along with the movements of the tagged hawks via the “live map” link on Hawk Mountain’s “Meet the Bird” page.

What’s to Come: More Migration, of Course…

The interpretive sign for the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory, positioned along the path to the Observatory platform. (photo © Phil Brown)

Visitors to the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory are greeted by a brand-new interpretive sign, designed by Margaret Baker of the Harris Center. (photo © Phil Brown)

We’ll be celebrating International Hawk Migration Week with our partner organization, the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), through the coming weekend.

In addition, late September into early October is peak migration time for the majority of the 15 or so raptor species that are detected annually at the Observatory. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for peak numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Turkey Vulture, and Northern Harrier!

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September 6, 2022

It Begins….

A Bald Eagle soars through a blue sky. (photo © Lillian Stokes)

A Bald Eagle soars on updrafts through a blue September sky.
(photo © Lillian Stokes)

On September 1, we entered our 18th consecutive season of monitoring migrating raptors and educating visitors at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory. The raptor flight has already begun, although somewhat slowly. Hot days followed by back-to-back washouts have spelled low numbers thus far, but we expect things to start turning around soon. Eleven species of migrating raptor have been recorded in our first week of monitoring, with Broad-winged Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Osprey, Bald Eagle, and Merlin leading the way. We also documented a rare Black Vulture, only the second record of this species whose range is expanding northward each year!

This season begins a new chapter as the Harris Center is now fully coordinating and running the Observatory. We thank NH Audubon for their long-term partnership and for their many years of steering this project, dating back to 2005 when Iain MacLeod officially founded the site.

Miller State Park and the NH Department of Natural and Cultural Resources remain our hosts and partners. As always, the Observatory relies on various funding sources, including private contributions – so thanks in advance for your continued support of this important conservation research and education project. While the Harris Center may now ‘fly alone,’ we have a strong team of staff, volunteers, partners, and community supporters who keep us aloft.

Birding with binoculars at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory (Hawk Watch). (photo © Ben Conant)

Levi Burford returns as our Seasonal Raptor Biologist and lead counter four days a week. (photo © Ben Conant)

In 2022, the Observatory welcomes back Levi Burford as Seasonal Raptor Biologist and lead counter four days per week (Thursday through Sunday). Volunteers Iain MacLeod (Mondays), Julie and Phil Brown (Tuesdays), and a combination of several other longtime observers (Wednesdays) will round out our lineup.

In addition, Harris Center teacher-naturalist Ben King will be on the summit many Wednesdays and Saturdays through late October, working with visiting school groups and weekend visitors. Educators from the SCA – NH Conservation Corps will also help us expand our reach. Will Stollsteimer, our first Bird Conservation Intern (and a student at Antioch University New England), will assist with the count once a week as he learns the ropes. Our team is assembled and ready in anticipation of the thousands of visitors and raptors we have come to expect at this Hawk Watch year after year.

Naturalist Ben King stands on a green lawn with his arms outstretched and two taxidermied hawks, encased in glass, at his feet. (photo © Ben Conant)

Harris Center teacher-naturalist Ben King will be on the summit many Wednesdays and Saturdays through late October, working with visiting school groups and weekend visitors. (photo © Ben Conant)

New signage and brochures will soon greet visitors upon arrival at the mountain. We’re gearing up for a couple of events – a Family Hawk Watch on September 10, the Big Sit on October 8, and possibly a low-key raptor release event (TBD). Otherwise, it will be business as usual, and we welcome all to come learn about the science and spectacle of migration with us!

The Observatory is staffed every day, weather permitting, from September 1 through November 20. While the Hawk Watch is free to visit, as always, reservations for Miller State Park are strongly recommended to guarantee your space on the mountain. Check out our Visiting the Hawk Watch page to plan your trip.

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Contact Us

For more information on the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory or to volunteer, please contact Bird Conservation Director Phil Brown.