Militia Hill Hawk Watch Report 2003

by | Nov 17, 2003 | Hawk Watch Updates

Isabel Sends Broadwings to Central Flyway
by Jane Henderson

From September 1 through October 31, five Militia Hill Hawkwatch records were broken. We had the largest number of Bald Eagles ever, 51; we had the largest number of Northern Harriers, Cooper’s Hawks and Bald Eagles in a single day; and we had the smallest total number of Broad-winged Hawks over the two months.

Braving a rainy day, 23 people visited the hawkwatch on Labor Day, September 1. A tropical storm brought rain and chilly weather for the first few days, but everyone cheered up when, in spite of the bad weather, an adult Bald Eagle flew over the hawkwatch on September 2.

Finally, September 5 brought sunshine, and, as if to celebrate, 13 Bald Eagles came by. This was a new daily record for Militia Hill. The first broadwings, a group of six, came by on September 6, along with three Bald Eagles and one immature Glossy Ibis. And things were finally underway.

In mid-September, Hurricane Isabel hovered off the mid-Altantic coast and effectively stopped the broadwing migration along the Atlantic flyway. From then on, only small kettles of broadwings were seen from the Hill, as well as at other eastern hawk watching areas. Nonetheless, a Peregrine Falcon came by on September 15. On September 18, the hawkwatch shut down at 2:30 because of Isabel’s strong winds and rain. By September 19, Isabel had blown out of our area. Fortunately we had no major damage or flooding, but small limbs were down everywhere. One large tree fell in the park.

As Isabel traveled west across Pennsylvania, large numbers of broadwings were swept toward the central flyway. Duluth and Detroit recorded larger than normal numbers of these migrants. September 22 brought our largest number of broadwings, 395, bringing the total for the month to 1123. Militia Hill’s average over the years is 10,000. Quite a contrast – what a difference a hurricane makes!

On September 21, two Northern Goshawks were identified.

October 1 was a big day on the hill, with 825 total raptors including four Bald Eagles. Bald Eagles continued to be seen into October, and on October 8 observers spotted a Golden Eagle. On that day falconer Tom Stanton brought a seven-month-old Peregrine Falcon to the park and flew her for us. Observers also watched a Merlin consume a Chimney Swift on a dead branch. October 10 was another good day, with a total of 290 raptors and oneSandhill Crane, a first for the park, and a life bird for a few observers.

Although migrating hawks are the main focus, there are always many things of interest observed on the Hill in the course of September and October. Common Nighthawks, singly and in small groups, were seen off an on throughout September. A female Blue Grosbeak paid a visit to the feeder, and a male was spotted down the hill. On September 3 the first White-throated Sparrow made an unusually early appearance; they do not normally arrive until later on in the fall.

On September 15 there was a flurry of excitement when Lynn Jackson identified aConnecticut Warbler low in a bush along Ridge Road. This was one of two records of this bird for the park. On September 20, a Northern Parula and a Black-throated Green Warbler visited the butterfly garden along with some new butterflies: the first Sachem and one White M Hairstreak. That day marked the first yellow jacket sting. 2003 was a record year for yellow jackets. On October 10 the first Dark-eyed Junco arrived, along with the first Yellow-rumped Warbler and one late Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

October 12 was the day of the National Audubon sponsored “Big Sit.” Wyncote President Cliff Hence and Nancy Hence positioned themselves near a picnic table and, along with others who came and went throughout the day, counted 41 species.

On October 20 a Purple Finch was sighted, and on the 21st two Wild Turkeys were spotted in the park. On October 21 a Red-breasted Nuthatch, scarce in our area the last couple of years, came to the feeders.

In mid-September, Anita Beaumont found a Baltimore Oriole’s nest on the ground and brought it to the hawkwatch platform so everyone could study it. This bird builds a hanging nest.

Absent throughout much of the hawk watching season, several Eastern Bluebirds arrived in late October to defend their nesting box. 17 bluebirds had fledged in the park over the summer.

As always, a variety of butterfly species visited the butterfly garden. There were many Monarchs in the course of the two months; on September 26, 200 were counted. Others included Orange Sulphurs, Buckeyes, Painted and American Ladies, Eastern Tiger, Spicebush and Black Swallowtails and assorted skippers and hairstreaks. A new species for the park was an Ocala Skipper, normally found in Florida.

On October 23 there were snow flurries.

In late October, Claire Burnett discovered a woodland flower called Beech Drop, never before identified in the park. Reddish brown, it blooms in October with a tiny flower. A parasite on the roots of a Beech Tree, is evidently causes no harm to the tree.

The annual Vintage Air Show at Wings Field on September 6 gave hawkwatch observers some different flying things to look at. Numerous biplanes and other small aircraft were in the sky all day. As always, the Pitcairn Autogiro interested and intrigued everyone. The big air show at the Naval Air Station in Willow Grove on September 14 gave hawk watchers some bigger and faster aircraft to watch, including the maneuvers of a Stealth Bomber.

On September 16 and 17 representatives from the John Deere Company demonstrated new equipment at the park. People were allowed to ride on the tractors, backhoes and big mowers. The John Deere people contributed free hoagies for hawkwatch people to enjoy.

On September 11, a 30 second commercial for the Lance Armstrong Cancer Research Foundation was shot in the park. It took 40 crew members, and a full day, to put the thing together and another full day to take it down. Lance Armstrong was not present, however.

51 people attended the annual Halloween party at the pavilion. 70 degree temperatures and sunshine produced the nicest weather for the party in 16 years. After the festivities, about 30 well fed people gathered on the deck. The hawkwatch was closed down for the season at 4:30 PM with 46 raptors for the day, and a total of 4476 raptors for the year.



Don Aiman Dick Flavell Jim Hunt
Harvey Bass, Jr. Bert Filemyr Sheryl Johnson
Anita Beaumont Connie Goldman George Layne
Alan Brady Steve Grunwald Bill Murphy
Erica Brendel Marya Halderman John Ward
Clair Burnett Cliff Hence Chris Walters
Randy Clouser Jeff Herbst Frank Welsh
Andy Fayer Chuck Hetzel



Bob Glendinning
Leonard Ardieta
Hank Webster
Tom & Susan Lloyd
Dave Cutler Industries, Inc
Susan Schueler
Wissahickon Bird Walkers
Andy Fayer
Harriett Richards
Tom Quigley
Shirley Gracie
John Dougherty
Betty & Herb Cutler
John McGonigle
Susan Petrow & Ron Beauchamp
Ruth Pfeffer in memory of Aug. Sprango
Ruth Pfeffer in memory of Ted Collins
Wyncote Audubon Society
Steve Cardell
Marya & John Halderman
George Miller


Our Hawk Watch is a group effort. Many people help to make each season a success.
This year we would like to extend a special thanks to ……
  • Cliff Hence for the group photo of the Halloween Party
  • Nancy Hence for the graphic artwork
  • Bert Filemyr for graphic services
  • All those who have contributed either cash or seed for the feeding program
  • Bill Murphy for the care of the butterfly garden and the bird feeders
  • Clair Burnett for help with the mailings, with the HAMANA forms, and for gardening in many areas of the park
  • George Burnett for hours of trimming around the butterfly garden, weed whacking, mowing, gardening in many areas and other projects
  • Wild Birds Unlimited of Dreshertown Plaza for generous contributions to the bird feeding program
  • Mike Winters, Eric Ihlein, Marc Watson, Bob Drake, Steve Cardell, Craig Walter, and Sheryl Lewis for all they do for us
  • The 22 compilers who faithfully take their shifts, often under unpleasant weather conditions.
  • Don Aiman for his help
  • Lynn Jackson and Andy Fayer for our website
  • Jane Henderson for writing the annual report, gardening and talking to groups
  • Don Burke for his help with the Halloween Party and with visiting groups
  • Dale Twining for continued deck maintenance
  • Phil Klauder, Jr. for printing monthly bulletin board charts
  • Philip Klauder for his love and support
  • Cutler Camera for donation of binoculars, album and party photos
  • All those who have brought cookies, candy and other treats to help keep us hippy and happy.
  • Dick Flavell for care of the bird feeders and bird baths and many cups of decaf to keep me warm
  • Eva Abreham for gardening and her mushroom research and display
  • Jim Best for repair of our bulletin board and the gift of a new sheet of plexiglass
  • Val Best for so many great photos and so much good food
  • Peaches for protecting our deck from those dangerous chipmunks
  • Erle Ehly, Jeanette & Dale Twining for hot tea and coffee on cold days
  • Frank Welsh for 144 hours of compiling every year
  • All those photographers who have contributed photos to the annual album
  • Tom Stanton for his visit with his 7 month old femaler peregrine falcon; she was wonderful to see
  • Elmer Schorle for talking to visiting classes ….. AND
  • Everyone who has helped scan the sky and found a migrant for us to count.

Very sincerely,
Marylea Klauder