Militia Hill Hawk Watch 1998

by | Nov 17, 1998 | Hawk Watch Updates

1998 Season Report
by Jane Henderson

Although the autumn of 1998 at the Militia Hill Hawk Watch at Fort Washington State Park could not be said to have been spectacular in terms of numbers of migrating raptors, there were some very good days on which a large number of birds came through. There were also sightings of seldom seen raptors and song birds, as well as some unusual butterflies. And as always, there was also occasional drama and excitement on the Hill.

For the two months, September and October, for which official records were kept this year, a total of 24 Bald Eagles were sighted from the platform, some coming in quite close. The first one was spotted on the very first day of September. In mid-October, a Rough-legged Hawk was identified and recorded, and on the next to last day, a Northern Goshawk flew over.

September 11, 12, 13 and 16 brought Militia Hill’s biggest Broad-winged Hawk flights, with 275, 289, 677 and 455 birds respectively. These are relatively small Broad-winged numbers for Militia Hill.

Watchers on October 13 were treated to a little drama. On that day, a Sharp- shinned Hawk swooped down and took an unsuspecting House Finch at the feeder. A little later that same day, observers were thrilled to witness two Red-shouldered Hawks frolicking just above the platform.

The tally of migrating raptors reached 5,000 birds for the season on October 22, when 57 Turkey Vultures migrated down the valley in large flacks.

Birds, other than raptors, seen migrating over the hawk watch included 2,000 Canada Geese and 14 Sandhill Cranes on October 3. Over a thousand Double-crested Cormorants came through on October 22. Common Loons, Great Blue Herons and Common Night-hawks were seen on several days.

The bird feeders below the platform, and the bushes near it brought in a variety of songbirds, including Prairie, Black-throated Green and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Parulas, and Common Yellowthroats as well as a Lincoln’s Sparrow, a possible Clay-colored Sparrow, a pair of Brown Thrashers, a pair of Eastern Towhees, a White-crowned Sparrow and a Red-headed Woodpecker. A Wild Turkey visited for several days.

On August 31, the day before the Hawk Watch began operating officially, a White Admiral butterfly, a northern subspecies of the Red Admiral, was sighted. Other unusual butterflies sighted at or near the hawk watch platform during the season were: Hackberry Emperor, Checkered Skipper, and Viceroy, as well as a number of Monarchs, Swallow-tails, Fritillaries, Hairstreaks, Skippers and Duskywings.

Perhaps the most unusual sighting occurred in October when observers spotted one of the Pitcairn autogiros, a pre-World War II aircraft, and precursor to the helicopter. According to Don Aiman, it flew overhead so slowly that it appeared to be “standing still. Two autogiros are based in Burlington County, New Jersey. This one was apparently heading toward West Chester for a gathering of aeronautics enthusiasts. Marylea Klauder, the founder of the Militia Hill Hawk watch, gave everyone a scare when she was admitted to Chestnut Hill Hospital for major surgery. By the time the season had ended, to everyone’s relief, she had recovered enough to return to the Hill.

75 people, including a number of youngsters, turned up for the annual Halloween picnic and party at the pavilion in the Park. As usual, an enormous amount of food was contributed and enthusiastically consumed. Everyone had a good time, as is evident in Cliff Hence’s traditional Halloween photo.

Thanks to all the people who contributed time and energy to the Militia Hill Hawk Watch this year. It could not function without the dedication of its volunteers and the cooperation and help of the Park staff.


Thank You 1998 Volunteer Compilers


Don Aiman lan Baldock Hank Ballerstedt
Harvey Bass Anita Beaumont Louis Bevier
Adrian Binns Alan Brady Erica Brendel
Randy Clouser Erle Ehly Jack Fanelli
Bert Filemyr Ed Fingerhood Shirley Gracie
Marya Halderman Cliff Hence Jane Henderson
Jeff Herbst Jim Hunt Sheryl Johnson
George Layne Bill Murphy Elmer Schorle
Martin Selzer John Ward Frank Welsh
Charlie Wonderly