“Feathers Over Freeport” at the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch

Katrina Fenton (L), the 2014 Official Counter and Jeannette Lovitch (R) keep an eye out for hawks, while Sasha keeps an eye on the hawkwatchers.

Katrina Fenton (L), the 2014 Official Counter and Jeannette Lovitch (R) keep an eye out for hawks, while Sasha keeps an eye on the hawkwatchers.

April 14, 2014: Twelve-hundred and fifty-seven migrant raptors at the Bradbury Mountain Spring Hawkwatch.  That’s a lot of birds for us. Heck, that’s a lot of birds for any spring hawkwatch away from the Great Lakes.  This was a single-day record for us, annihilating the previous single-day high count of 699 raptors. Let me put this in perspective, this tally is only a little less than 1/3rd our 6-year season average!

Two-hundred and twenty-none Ospreys: a new single-day record.

Five-hundred and eight Broad-winged Hawks: a new single-day record.

Thirty-six Northern Harriers and 185 American Kestrels: our second-highest single-day counts.

Our season of superlatives continues.  As of the half-way mark of April 15th, 3,148 migrants have passed by “The Brad.”  Broad-winged Hawks have just arrived, Ospreys and Sharp-shinned Hawks are only now reaching peak, and our first wave of immature birds has just now begun.  We already have new single-season records for Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk.  A Rough-legged Hawk (average of less than 1 a year) and a high-soaring migrant Snowy Owl (our second all-time)…in other words, it is obviously a season to remember, and we’re only at the half-way point!  It is definitely one for the record books.

But like most hawkwatches, our migration count is just part of the story. The other is the outreach and education opportunity provided by migration count projects. In fact, the mission of the Bradbury Mountain Raptor Research Project is equal parts data collection and public relations. The only thing that makes a day like April 14th more successful for us is when we can share the birds with others; newcomers and seasoned veterans alike.

The more people we can get excited about hawkwatching, the more people we can get excited about protecting them. Enjoyment fosters appreciation. Appreciation fosters compassion. Compassion fosters concern, and concern fosters action.

But perhaps we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, as the first step is trying to get more people excited about hawkwatching. Big flight days like the 14th certainly helps, but we want to reach a lot more people, and have a lot more hawkwatchers and hawk-enthusiasts present for the next big day.

Enter “Feathers Over Freeport: A Birdwatching Weekend,” that takes place on the last weekend of every April. Centered on the hawkwatch at BradburyMountainState Park in Pownal and the nesting Ospreys at nearby Wolfe’s NeckWoodsState Park in Freeport, our store, Freeport Wild Bird Supply is the lead sponsor of the event, now entering its fourth year. Two days of fun-filled, family-friendly events are designed to get people in touch with the natural world. Morning birdwalks, a hawkwatch workshop, birdwalks for kids, kid’s arts and crafts, and much, much more is packed into this exciting weekend. Oh yeah, and live raptors from our favorite local rehab and education organization.

Hope Douglas of Wind Over Wings with a Common Raven during one of our popular live bird programs.

Hope Douglas of Wind Over Wings with a Common Raven during one of our popular live bird programs.

 

Hawkwatchers search the skies over "The Brad" during one of our hawkwatch workshops.

Hawkwatchers search the skies over “The Brad” during one of our hawkwatch workshops.

1,257 raptors is a lot of birds, but 2,000 people is even more impressive.  And 2,000 people participated in one or more event during last year’s Feathers Over Freeport.  Two thousand people, which means two-thousand more potential future hawkwatchers!

A complete schedule of events can be found on the Feathers Over Freeport website, here.  I hope to see you there!

Hope Douglas of Wind Over Wings and their Golden Eagle - up close and personal!

Hope Douglas of Wind Over Wings and their Golden Eagle – up close and personal!

It's never too early to introduce kids to the joys of birds and birding!

It’s never too early to introduce kids to the joys of birds and birding!