CONCORD, N.H. — It’s a good time of year to keep your eye on the sky. It’s migration season for several species of raptor that are making their way through the Granite State en route to a variety of destinations where they will spend the winter.
It’s part of an epic annual journey that some species make. Broad-winged hawks, for instance, travel as far as South America to their wintering grounds in Brazil, Paraguay, and Colombia. They use thermal winds to boost them along their journeys, helping them travel 250 to 300 miles in a single day.
Biologists typically record around 15 species of raptors from the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory in Miller State Park. From mid-September through mid-October they see Broad-winged Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys and more.
There are efforts around the state to keep track of hawk populations because they are top predators that can indicate environmental health and changes. But reliable information about many raptor species is lacking, according to the Harris Center for Conservation Education.
Stations in New Hampshire are part of a network of monitoring sites around the United States, Canada, and Central America. Together, those 300 monitoring stations have collected data showing that Bald Eagles and Peregrine Falcons have rebounded to healthy levels after they were decimated from the use of DDT, a chemical that’s harmful to birds.
But their data has also shown the decline of American Kestrel and Northern Harrier, prompting conservation efforts including nest boxes for Kestrel in New Hampshire. Raptors face the threat of climate change, pollution, and how land use is changing.
This year, biologists at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory recorded that the migration season was off to a slow start, after many hot and humid days. But, as of Sept. 14, hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks started traveling south.
The biologists post their observations to an online database called hawkcount.org. So far this year, they’ve recorded 11,633 hawks from the station in Peterborough, over 289 hours of observing. Most of those were Broad-winged Hawks (10,253), the species that typically makes up 75 percent of the annual count, according to the Harris Center for Conservation Education. So far, in October, they’ve recorded 202 migrating birds.
They post their notes at the end of each day, as well as the forecast for the following day.
If it’s dry and sunny today, a southwest wind could bring anywhere from 25 to 50 birds to the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory, according to the forecast.
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