Eagles, Accipiters and an Anhinga
By Jane Henderson with Marylea Klauder
2005 was an excellent year at the hawkwatch on Militia Hill. Once again, some records were broken between the first day, September 1 and the last day, October 31.
- A total of 62 Bald Eagles were sighted, more than on any previous year.
- 140 Sharp-shinned Hawks were counted in one day.
- 184 Cooper’s Hawks were tallied, the largest number in one season.
Over the two months, four Golden Eagles migrated through – a highlight, but not a record. On September 4 , a female Anhinga was spotted, as well as a Black-crowned Night-heron, both new for Militia Hill. 14 yellowlegs came by on that same day. The season got off to a good start on September 1 when 38 observers saw an immature Bald Eagle fly by at 3:30 PM. A total of 24 raptors came by that day, a very nice start for the new season.
The first kettle of 17 Broad-winged Hawks was spotted early in the afternoon of September 4, followed by another 100 a little later that day.
The weather was unusually hot during the early days of September; it was close to 90F on September 12. There were no kettles that day, but three Bald Eagles were sighted.
September 18 – 23 were the big broadwing days. On September 18, the kettles started at 3:00 PM, and 366 birds were counted. On September 19, 3,920 broadwings came by in the morning and 366 in the afternoon. September 21 brought 2,486 broadwings, along with six Bald Eagles. And on that same day we tallied the 175,000th bird seen from the Hill during the 18 years of the hawkwatch. It wasn’t long before a sign was made and a photo taken to commemorate the occasion. September 23 was a great day as well, with 30 Ospreys and another 800 broadwings, mostly after 4:00 PM.
October 1 brought the 40th Bald Eagle for the year. Two more followed on October 3.
Everyone was excited when, on October 5 , the first Golden Eagle of the year came by. This same bird was reported by the Rose Tree Hawkwatch three hours later. The bird left us to fly over Philadelphia, and very likely followed the Delaware River south.
On October 7 we were happy to see our first and only Goshawk of the season. 20 Ospreys flew over on October 9. This was followed by several days of chilly drizzle and rain which was tough for the compilers, but did not seem to deter the raptors, including several more Bald Eagles, which continued to migrate over the hill.
Cold winds on October 26, following on the heels of heavy rain the day before, brought good birds including Bald Eagles, a second Golden Eagle, 260 Snow Geese and a Common Raven, only the third raven in 18 years.
It was on October 29 that Bald Eagle #62 set a new Militia Hill record for sightings of that bird.
Continuing this year’s trend of numbers of good birds into late October, on Halloween, October 31, and the last day of the hawkwatch, 80 raptors were counted for a grand total for the year of 11,483.
This was the 6th “best” year for Militia Hill, with a final count of 11,483 birds. Although totals of the various species of raptors are always compared from year to year, and “the 6th best year” doesn’t sound that impressive, a close look at the site itself casts some light on that subject. The trees surrounding the Hill have become huge in the 18 years the hawkwatch has been in operation! Birds that used to be counted as they followed the turnpike or appeared “in the notch” simply can’t be seen now. So, recently, there has been some discussion of building a taller addition to the deck. Of course hawk watchers gather mainly to watch migrating hawks. But there is always a lot more happening on Militia Hill. For instance, on October 20, Tom Stanton, a licensed falconer, flew his Peregrine Falcon in front of the deck to the delight of the 55 people there on that damp and misty day.
A second hummingbird feeder was attached to the railing on the deck, and the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds found it within a few hours. Several Common Loons and Double-crested Cormorants were sighted as they migrated over. And at the feeders, as October advanced, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, as well as Dark-eyed Juncos began to appear. Fewer Common Nighthawks were seen this year than in years past. But there were more Monarchs than last year, and lots of dragonflies.
As usual, students from several area schools came to the Hill with their teachers to learn about what goes on at the hawkwatch. And the “regulars” continue to enjoy the camaraderie of spending a few hours with friends on the deck. Historically, it has been a peaceful refuge for many people.
The hawkwatch season closed with the traditional Halloween luncheon and party at the park pavilion. Over 70 people attended, a surprisingly large number considering that Halloween fell on a Monday this year. The food was varied and delicious, and nearly everything had been devoured by the time lunch was over and it was time for everybody to pose for the picture. Marylea has announced that she will retire as hawkwatch coordinator after two more years. By then, she will have served for 20 years as organizer, greeter, hostess, supplier of cookies and of course true aficionado of the birds that frequent Militia Hill. She has been thankful to have found a group of very competent people who will continue what she started so many years ago. But I think we’d all agree that it’s hard to imagine that Marylea will be able to stay away from the Hill for very long.
VOLUNTEER COMPILERS -2005
Harvey Bass, Jr.
Susan and Tom Lloyd
Andy Fayer – Bird Seed
Jack Fanelli – Bird Seed
John and Francis Miller
Chestnut Hill Hospital Staff in memory of Dr. Wu
Ruth Pfeffer in memory of Ruth Patton
Rich and Mary Lou Whitehall
Wyncote Audubon Society
Ruth Pfeffer in memory of Charlotte Lutz
John and Carol McGonigle
Our Hawk Watch is a group effort. Many people help to make each season a success.