As we suffered through the hot, dry, smoky days of August it is hard to imagine that the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch season was almost upon us. But the 15th consecutive season of season-long migration monitoring began on August 25th. We are once again happy to have local birder extraordinaire Joshua Covill on board as our paid technician, and a cadre of volunteers will help man the ridgetop this fall.

The Jewel Basin site has become well-known as THE place to get close-up views of migrating raptors, with passage rates exceeding one bird per minute on the best migration days. We have tallied over 37,000 hawks, eagles, and falcons of 18 species over the past 14 seasons. Peak migration usually runs from mid-September through the first week in October; last year our best day was relatively late in the season, with 488 birds counted on October 8th. We also recorded new season-long high counts for ten species, including an incredible 2,490 Sharp-shinned Hawks, on our way to our best season ever, with 4,418 birds counted.

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 2.4 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. Surveys run from August 25th through November 7th, weather and safe access permitting!

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. You can also follow daily surveys in real time by visiting the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch Dunkadoo page, or visit our Jewel Basin Hawk Watch page for more information and survey calendar.