by Denny Olson

Our COVID-cancelled Birds of Prey Festival — which has often gathered 800-plus people on a single day, was spread this year over a week, with smaller, or virtual, groups gathered for educational events. Kathy Ross did two small-group presentations with live birds at Wild Wings (see page 4). Montana Audubon’s Amy Seaman taught a three-day remote workshop on raptor ID.

The Festival has always had a strong connection to the 14-year Jewel Basin hawk Watch, and we often held afternoon training sessions on raptor ID in flight to recruit more volunteers willing to do the counts on Aeneas Ridge. It has paid off. This year, we have had all suitable migration days covered — from mid-August to mid-October. But aside from being there (which is the best way, of course), there has been little opportunity to practice.

So this year, with Derrick Rathe’s early help, I spent a number of days making full-sized, colored silhouettes of raptors from below, laminating them, and using them in a Friday -Saturday workshop on “Birds of Prey from Below” at Lone Pine Visitor Center. Ten enthusiastic participants practiced their ID’s of the silhouettes — all of them new to the art form, and most interested in eventually becoming Primary Observers in the coming years.

The 27 silhouettes (of 17 birds of prey species, with juvenile, adult and gender differences bringing up the total) will soon be on exhibit — tacked to the ceiling or hanging as a “mobile” from the rafters of the Lone Pine VC classroom. There will be a hardcopy “key” to all the plumage differences available to self-quiz those wanting to practice. For each species, the silhouettes only show the places to look for identification. Some of the silhouettes have the adult and juvenile plumages on opposite sides, and those will be hanging so both sides are visible. Also, partly because they are huge (80-inch wingspan!), the Eagle silhouettes have different plumages on the right and left halves of the silhouette.It makes them look like birds with multiple personality disorder, but can help with determining the age of the birds.

Come over to Lone Pine and hone your raptor ID skills!