by Dan Casey

Grizzly Bear at Jewel Basin Hawk Watch – Photo Credit: BJ Worth

After more than ten years of experience monitoring fall migration of raptors in the Jewel Basin, we should typically see about 2,600 raptors (mean, 2,598) on about 45 survey days between the end of August and early November. This year we once again conducted 45 surveys, although our average survey length of 5.7 hours was our lowest ever, as was our average passage rate of 6.4 birds/hr. And while we (remarkably) had only five days where weather precluded surveys (before our season ended on 26 October), we unfortunately missed conducting surveys on 14 days where conditions were suitable but no survey was conducted. These factors, perhaps in combination with natural events, led to our lowest ever season count in total of 1,637 birds. But the birds once again put on a good showing for those who made the trip! One bonus for much of the latter half of the season was a large grizzly bear feeding on the “grassy knoll” during many surveys, well over a mile away.

Sharp-shinned Hawk was once again our most abundant species, but with just 686 counted (10-yr average: 1,189). Indeed, we had below average counts for all but Bald Eagle (54) and Merlin (24), and our lowest ever totals of Cooper’s Hawks (215) and Peregrine Falcons (3). We have now tallied 27,886 raptors in 11 seasons at the Jewel Basin site, including more than 17,000 accipiters and 5,000 eagles. Our annual report, which will be completed this winter, will include analysis of trends over the years and within species. It will be interesting to see, for example, if observed age ratios point to widespread low reproduction this year, and what role that might have played in our reduced count totals.

             Thanks to all who participated this year, notably those who served as primary observers:  Lisa Bate, Jake Bramante, Nickie Broesel, Dan Casey, Cory Davis, Diane Lundgren, Doug Mead, Kathy Ross, Barbara Summer, Rod Wallette, and bj Worth. Their dedication keeps this valuable effort going. But as evidenced by the fourteen days we missed, we can always use more volunteers for this long-term survey at one of Montana’s premiere hawk migration sites!

If you would like more information about the Hawk Watch, contact Dan Casey at 406-270-5941 or A more detailed final report will be provided to Flathead National Forest and the Flathead Audubon Board of Directors early in 2019.

2018 Jewel Basin Hawk Watch Totals

Species Count
Turkey Vulture 0
Osprey 6
Bald Eagle 54
Northern Harrier 24
Sharp-shinned Hawk 686
Cooper’s Hawk 215
Northern Goshawk 26
Accipiter, species 32
Broad-winged Hawk 12
Swainson’s Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 152
Ferruginous Hawk 0
Rough-legged Hawk 18
Buteo, species 20
Golden Eagle 268
American Kestrel 52
Merlin 24
Prairie Falcon 7
Gyrfalcon 0
Falcon, species 9
Raptor, species 27
Total 1,637