by Dan Casey
The Jewel Basin Hawk Watch has become known as one of the best places to count migrating accipiters in the Northern Rockies. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks by the hundreds are joined by 16 other species of hawks, falcons and eagles as they fly the ridge on their way to wintering areas as far away as Central America. Our 16th full season of monitoring at this site will run from August 25 through November 7, weather and safe access permitting. Peak migration typically runs from mid-September through the first two weeks of October.
We tallied 2,851 raptors of 17 species during the 2022 season, and have now counted more than 40,000 raptors (including more than 18,000 Sharp-shinned Hawks) at the site since 2007. Peak counts over the years have included well over 100 birds per hour, 595 birds in a day, and more than 4,400 birds in a season. When conditions are right, many of the birds pass by at very close range at eye level!
The Jewel Basin Hawk Watch is supported through cooperation and funding from the Flathead National Forest, Montana Autdubon and hundreds of hours donated by local and visiting volunteers. There will always be an experienced primary observer on site, but extra sets of eyes are needed on the busiest days! The Jewel Basin site sits on the ridge crest about ½ mile north of Mt. Aeneas. Getting there involves a 2.4-mile moderately difficult hike from the Jewel Basin parking lot to the ridgetop, steadily gaining about 1,400 feet in elevation. The scenery is as spectacular as the birding!
We will be including monthly updates of this year’s effort in the Pileated Post. But if you would like more information, contact Dan Casey at (406) 270-5941. There is a Google group dedicated to the effort which you can join by submitting an email to firstname.lastname@example.org; you can also follow daily surveys in real time by visiting our Dunkadoo Page. Or visit the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch page for more information and survey calendar.