Monday, September 29, 2008

Hawk Watching in Delaware

Delaware has two hawk watching stations, at Ashland Nature Center and Cape Henlopen State Park. The two sites are both operated by the Delmarva Ornithological Society but record different sets of species.

Hawk Watch Hill is one of two Delaware hawk sites staffed by a full-time coordinator; the other is Cape Henlopen State Park. Both programs are funded by the Delmarva Ornithological Society, with additional support from other nature organizations.

Matt Sileo is the coordinator at Ashland, and Forrest Rowland holds that role at Cape Henlopen. Rowland is quick to opine that the views from Cape Henlopen's Hawk Watch platform rival those at Ashland's Hawk Watch Hill.

"The platform is situated near Cape Henlopen's point, and it's quite a commanding view, what with all the raptors overhead and the ocean as a backdrop," says Rowland.

Due to its location on the coast, Cape Henlopen's migration is different from Ashland's.

"We get lots of ospreys and falcons," says Rowland. "And we don't tend to have peak days the way Ashland does. Instead, it's a pretty consistent stream of birds now through the third week of October. We do see raptors after that, though, so we stay open through Nov. 20."
I have been watching the reports from Cape Henlopen with interest over the past several weeks since Cape Henlopen lies just across the Delaware Bay from Cape May. (A ferry makes multiple daily trips between the two capes.) On several occasions, the number of raptors counted there has exceeded those passing over Cape May, sometimes by a good margin. While I know what leads to a good flight in Cape May (NW winds, 8-15 mph), I have not quite figured out what conditions make for a poor flight in Cape May but a good flight in Cape Henlopen. I imagine wind direction has a lot to do with it, but clouds and humidity are other possible factors.

In other raptor news, I have updated the totals on the raptor banding website. Twenty-seven peregrines last week!