Militia Hill Hawk Watch 1999

by | Nov 17, 1999 | Hawk Watch Updates

1999 Season Report
by Jane Henderson

Two hurricanes, the lingering effects of the summer drought, and the appearance of a Swainson’s Hawk on September 6 dominated the early part of the final hawkwatch of this millennium. Hurricane Dennis moved off the coast and stalled, keeping weather conditions stagnant and humid and migrating raptors elsewhere. Hurricane Floyd arrived a couple of weeks later. This nasty storm dumped 8 – 10 inches of rain on our area, knocked down trees, closed the park, and washed out hawk watching activities for a couple of days. It also knocked out power to many households and flooded roadways and homes. Floyd, many believe, was responsible for pushing big flights of Broad-winged Hawks westward where unusually huge counts were reported.

Once the hurricanes passed, Militia Hill enjoyed some very nice days. 1999 turned out to be a very good year for eagles. By the end of October, a record 44 Bald Eagles had come by the Hill. On several occasions, Bald Eagles flew by in pairs. On October 12, a Golden Eagle, Militia Hill’s first in three years, flew over with two Bald Eagles in the same view. October 24 brought a second Golden Eagle.

Then, on October 25 a Rough-legged Hawk was identified. 4 goshawks were sighted in October, and Ospreys were still coming through at the end of the month. A Turkey Vulture on October 26 marked the 9000th bird for 1999.

Militia Hill also enjoyed several big Broad-wing days. On September 18 and 19, observers witnessed flights of over 1500 Broad-wings. Late in the day on September 18, Militia Hill hawk watchers enjoyed seeing hundreds of Broad-wings settle down in nearby trees for the night. Then, the next morning, they experienced the birds lifting off for the subsequent leg of their journey south.

The hawkwatch was rained out on October 10, but one of the park rangers reported that a Red-tailed Hawk perched for a while on the railing that day. From the deck, observers enjoyed seeing an albino Carolina Chickadee at the feeder. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds also appeared at the feeders, and a Scarlet Tanager enjoyed the birdbath. Throughout September, the sky was full of Chimney Swifts.

Common Nighthawks were regularly seen, singly or in pairs. In October, observers watched a Tri-colored Heron fly over, a record for Militia Hill. Skeins of geese came by, high in the sky, and Pine Siskins arrived at the feeders as the Militia Hill hawk watching season drew to a close at the end of October.

As always, a variety of butterflies enjoyed nectaring among the buddleia bushes and the verbena plants. On two days, over 2000 Monarchs filled the sky. On September 27 more monarchs flew over than previously recorded at Militia Hill.

Verbena patagonia plants, fortunately deer-resistant, have spread significantly and have formed a thick border around the butterfly garden. In an experiment, other plants are being placed in the midst of the verbena in the hope that deer will stay away from them as well. The abelia grandiflora, planted a few years ago by Erle Ehly, is thriving. Blue mist spirea is flourishing beautifully along the side of the platform.

A preying mantis took up residence in the buddleia bush at the entrance to the platform. After the rains, mushrooms sprouted all over the area. One particularly hardy one actually broke through the macadam.

Groups of school children and adults from retirement facilities continued to enjoy their visits to Militia Hill. A group of 60 Germantown Academy students watched large kettles of Broad-wings and two Bald Eagles migrate over the Hill. 1999 saw more wheelchairs on the platform than ever before, confirming Militia Hill’s hawkwatch’s “user friendly” status.

75 people attended the annual Halloween picnic, on a beautiful Sunday this year, bringing 1999’s hawkwatch at Militia Hill to a close.

1999 Season Compilers


Don Aiman lan Baldock Hank Ballerstedt
Harvey Bass Anita Beaumont Alan Brady
Erica Brendel Randy Clouser Erle Ehly
Bert Filemyr Shirley Gracie Steve Gruwald
Cliff Hence Jane Henderson Jeff Herbst
Jim Hunt Sheryl Johnson George Layne
Bill Murphy Elmer Schorle John Ward
Frank Welsh Charlie Wonderly