by Kat Peterson
The 12th season has ended for the 2019 hawk migration season at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch site northeast of Bigfork. Our season started out encouragingly with a primary observer on the ridge almost every day. Our high count of 250 birds on September 22 was our seventh best day ever! However, Mid-September presented 8 foul weather days during our peak flight of migrants. The first half of October presented many full survey days. Yet, as the eagle migration started to increase, the season came to a halt on our earliest close of October 16. Regrettably, this early season snow permanently shut down safe access to the trailhead.
This year 36 surveys were conducted during our designated 75-day survey window (25 August – 7 November). This was our lowest survey effort over the 12 years of the survey. Unfortunately, on at least 15 late season survey days in which the ridge was clear, we were unable to conduct surveys due to unsafe access. We were able to record our 13,000th Sharp-shinned, and our 4,500th Golden Eagle. Our final tally of 1,792 birds was second lowest to the 1,638 we had last year. We have now counted 29,679 raptors of 18 species over the 12 years of surveys. Despite foul weather and lack of survey days, we had a new record high number of Prairie Falcons(21).
These surveys have been coordinated by Flathead Audubon, and made possible in part by grants from the U.S. Forest Service and Flathead Audubon, in addition to hundreds of hours of volunteer time donated by FAS members. We are beyond grateful to the countless time spent by primary observers on the ridge in wind, rain and snow at 7,000 feet elevation. Thanks to Kat Petersen, BJ Worth, Barbara Summer, Nickie Broesel, Diane Lundgren, Lisa Bate, Kathy Ross, Jake Bramante, Denny Olson and Dan Casey. Many days we also had secondary observers at the lower observation point as well as countless visitors to the ridge who helped catch those low flying raptors.
A summary table for 2019 is on page 6. For more in depth information on data and statistics for the 2019 Jewel Basin Hawk Watch season please visit our dunkadoo website at: https://dunkadoo.org/explore/flathead-audubon/jewel-basin-2019
2019 Jewel Basin Hawk Watch Totals