Braddock Bay, just west of Rochester, NY ( my home town!) is one of the best sites on the continent to observe hawk migration in spring, and this April it will serve as the site of a major hawk-watching conference.
Like many Great Lakes communities, the Rochester region is quietly known as having many exciting birding hotspots, especially during spring and fall. What people don’t know, however, is how special it is for spring hawk migration.
Luke Tiller, a professional hawk counter (yes, they exist!), has been counting passage hawks at the Braddock Bay hawkwatch platform for three seasons. “On average, more than 50,000 raptors pass through over a three-month period, making it one of the prime hawkwatching sites in the entire country.”
Most of the raptors that pass through Rochester are turkey vultures and broad-winged hawks, but we also see impressive flights of sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks as well as numbers of highly sought-after species like bald and golden eagles, peregrine falcon, and rough-legged hawk.” Peak flights (those with the largest number of raptors) usually occur in mid-to-late April.
“Three years ago, on April 27, 2011, I witnessed a remarkable flight over Rochester and tallied 42, 235 hawks – the great majority broad-winged – which was the biggest spring flight days recorded in U.S. and Canada,” said Tiller. That is a mind-blowing experience for any birdwatcher, to be sure. And it’s no coincidence that the upcoming conference dates overlaps with this historically interesting flight date!
Bird biologists and raptor enthusiasts will convene at Braddock Bay April 25-27 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA, hmana.org), a group that studies raptor migration in order to better understand the science and conservation of raptor populations.
Participants can attend workshops on raptor photography, raptor identification classes out on the hawk-watch platform, as well as field trips to local birding hotspots. There will also be “farther afield” field trips to the Roger Tory Peterson Institute, Derby Hill and other nationally renowned sites like Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. Keynotes will be given by Richard Crossley, field guide author, and Keith L. Bidelstein, Director of Conservation Science at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
For more information, visit the HMANA website.
Click here for a great overview of Best of the U.S. Spring Hawkwatching Sites.
About the Author
Laura Kammermeier is a writer, birder, and board member of the Rochester Birding Association. She is also editor of The Nature Travel Network.