by Dan Casey
August 25th 2021 marks the beginning of the 14th consecutive year of season-long migration monitoring at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch. Volunteers and one paid technician (Joshua Covill) will serve as primary observers for surveys through November 7th, weather and road access permitting. We encourage birders of all levels to join us on the ridge this fall!
The Jewel Basin site has a well-deserved reputation as one of the best places to survey accipiters (Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawk, Northern Goshawk) in the northern Rockies. Indeed, on the best days, literally hundreds of these birds pass by, many at “arms-length”. We have counted more than 32,000 hawks, eagles and falcons of 18 species over the past 13 seasons. Last year we had our two best days ever, including one survey where we counted 1-3 birds per minute all day, and ended up with 595 birds for the day, including more than 350 Sharp-shinned Hawks! Peak migration usually runs from mid-September through the first week in October.
The Jewel Basin Hawk Watch is supported though cooperation with the Flathead National Forest 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 ¼ mile moderately difficult hike from the Jewel Basin parking lot to the ridgetop, steadily gaining about 1,400 ft 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 (https://groups.google.com/a/flatheadaudubon.org/g/jewelers); you can also follow daily surveys in real time by visiting https://www.dunkadoo.org/explore/flathead-audubon/jewel-basin-2021.