by Gael Bissell

Looking for incoming raptors at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch site – Photo Credit: Jake Bramante

Initiated in 2007 by Dan Casey with the American Bird Conservancy and a hearty crew of dedicated hawk watchers, the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch is entering its 10th year of season-long surveys. “It really takes about 10 years of continuous and accurate data collection to begin to see population and productivity trends from one hawk watch site”, says Dan Casey, now with Ducks Unlimited in Billings, MT. “This site provides some of the best accipiter data in the northern Rockies and when the data are combined regionally and nationally, we can begin to see important trends by species”. This project has been made possible through the generous support of the Flathead National Forest; Plum Creek Foundation; Flathead Audubon Society; Wings in Nature; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; and other new 2017 sponsors.

This project needs field volunteers who do not need any prior birding experience. Volunteers do need the ability to hike 1400 feet up the Mount Aeneas trail, use binoculars to spot migratory raptors that fly by or over the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch, and help the primary observer record data. “These volunteers are essential to keeping track of birds as they fly by”, says Barbara Summer, veteran primary observer. “They help with observations, data collection, and also visiting with hikers and others as they pass through the site”. This is a job that is really hard to do by one’s self, particularly on the busy days”, says Summer.

As part of the Birds of Prey Festival on September 16th at Lone Pine State Park. Jewel Basin Hawk Watch team is hosting an afternoon session for potential and all volunteers. You will learn simple identification tips, how data are collected and recorded, how to sign up on the Yahoo Group website, and how to get to the site (including potential ride-sharing). Flathead Audubon will also be leading a field trip on September 23 for potential volunteers and others.

Follow along with live bird counts as they happen over at!!