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Bradbury Mountain Hawkwatch Begins March 15th!

Hawkwatching season is here! Freeport Wild Bird Supply (FWBS) is once again sponsoring the Spring Hawkwatch at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, which begins on March 15th. 2023 marks the 17th consecutive season for this project through which valuable data is collected while providing an enjoyable and educational experience for visitors.

This year, we welcome back Zane Baker from North Yarmouth as our official Hawkcounter. Zane was our Hawkcounter in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2022 and has spent many additional hours volunteering outside of that time. We are thrilled to have his experience and dedication once again. He’ll be stationed at the summit from 9:00am to 5:00pm daily from March 15th to May 15th.

Rising 485 feet above the southern coastal plain, Bradbury Mountain provides unimpeded views to the south and east all the way to the islands of Casco Bay. Whether using updrafts off the mountain, gliding overhead, or soaring over the plains, observers watch raptors utilizing a variety of migratory methods as they work their way north. The goal of the project is to document this migration by identifying and counting all raptors that pass by the mountain. On average, we see over 1,500 Broad-winged Hawks, 400 Osprey, and 75 Bald Eagles, among others in a season. Bradbury Mountain is also a fantastic place to view Red-shouldered Hawks, a species that is difficult to see when nesting in summer. Over a period of years, these data can be analyzed to determine trends in species numbers as well as changes in distributions, which when studied in conjunction with other monitoring sites across the continent, give us a broadscale idea of what is happening with raptor populations.

But it is not just about the numbers. Hawkwatching is a very social activity that is accessible to birders of all abilities and levels of experience. Over the years, we have interacted with an average of over 1000 visitors in a season. Since the onset of COVID, there has been a boom in new birders who are noticing and appreciating the avian life around us. Add to that the appearance of the now famous Steller’s Sea-Eagle the past two winters and the press it generated, and you have a whole new cast of budding enthusiasts who want to learn more! Bradbury Mountain is the perfect place to gain exposure to the world of migrating hawks, with 13 regularly occurring species to learn about. Seeing your first kettle (group of birds rising up on an updraft or thermal) of 50+ Broad-winged Hawks, or learning how to tell the difference between a Bald Eagle and a Turkey Vulture several miles away is an eye-opening experience for many folks. Organized hawkwatch sites, like Bradbury Mountain, are great places to meet new people and learn about raptors and the conservation issues they face at the same time.

So, grab your binoculars and join us atop Bradbury Mountain this spring. Zane will gladly answer questions about the raptors you will see and help visitors learn what to look for to identify the 18 species that may pass by. The hawkwatch is free, though there is an entry fee to the park.

And, don’t forget about Feathers Over Freeport: A Birdwatching Weekend on April 29th and 30th which features family-friendly events at Bradbury Mountain and Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Parks to help folks learn about Maine’s hawks and other birds! A Hawkwatch workshop, bird walks, and other activities will take place in person, and on site. Registration is required for some events, but they remain free of charge with park entry.

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