Hawk Watch

Swoop on by the Hawk Watch!  Help count hawks in the sky as they migrate and learn how bird counts help birds.

During the months of Sep – Nov, visit us daily to help us look for the 5,000 – 20,000 raptors that migrate by in the fall season.

Hawk Watch Hill – an Important Bird Area

Ashland Nature Center’s Hawk Watch, Ashland’s highest hill, is in the center of the Red Clay Audubon Important Bird Area, designated by the National Audubon Society. Begun in 2007, this raptor migration count station operates September through November annually. Migrant raptors are counted daily and results are reported to the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), where over 200 hawk watch sites from around the continent report their findings.

Hawk Watch Hill is ideally situated to observe daytime migration and a full-time hawk watcher and trained volunteers are present to identify birds. The eastern edge of the Piedmont, a chain of rolling hills extending from New York to Alabama, is a flyway for many raptors heading south. Ashland Nature Center is an ideal location to view raptors and many other migrants heading along this route.

Latest Hawk Watch Stats

View our Ashland Hawkcount page for our current and historic hawk flight data.
View our Ashand Bird Sightings eBird page to see current and historic data on birds observed.

In fall 2017, a total of 11,665 migrant raptors were counted – slightly above the 10-year average. Sixteen raptor species were counted: six species were below-average in number, nine were above-average. and one was exactly equal to the average. A new season high was set for Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus). A new season low was set for Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). The number of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) was less than half of the average. No Northern Goshawks (Accipiter gentilis) were seen. Single-day records were set for Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), and American Kestrel (Falco sparverius). The single-day record was tied for Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). A rarely seen Swainson’s Hawk was seen on October 26. See you in the fall of 2018!

Raptor Season Migration Times

. . . the best times to visit DelNature Hawk Watch to view your favorite species:

Osprey Osprey
September and October. Peaks late September or early October.
Bald Eagle Bald Eagle
Consistent September through mid-November. No noticeable peak.
Northern Harrier Northern Harrier
Consistent September through November. Slight peak in October.
Sharp-shinned Hawk Sharp-shinned Hawk
September through November. Peaks in mid-late October.
Cooper's Hawk Cooper’s Hawk
September through early November. Peaks mid-October.
Northern Goshawk Northern Goshawk
Low numbers occur late October to mid-November.
Red-shouldered Hawk Red-shouldered Hawk
Generally October and November. Peaks in November.
Broad-winged Hawk Broad-winged Hawk
Occurs in large numbers during mid-September.
Red-tailed Hawk Red-tailed Hawk
October and November. Peaks in November.
Golden Eagle Golden Eagle
Small numbers come through late October and early November.
American KestrelAmerican Kestrel
September and October. Peaks in late September.
Merlin Merlin
September and October.
Peregrine FalconPeregrine Falcon
September and October. Peaks early October.
Black Vulture Turkey & Black Vulture (shown)
October and November.

Fun Facts

  • Common Loons can be seen flying overhead in September and October.
  • Common Nighthawks should be looked for in the late afternoon during the month of September.
  • Delaware Nature Society’s Ashland Nature Center is the only Delaware nesting site for the Sharp-shinned Hawk.
  • Monarch Butterflies migrate past Hawk Watch Hill. On a nice day in September or October, you may see hundreds of them go by.
  • Tree Swallows swarm during October. In the afternoon, sometimes thousands can be seen going past, usually to the southeast.
  • During November, migrant Canada Geese, Snow Geese, and sometimes Tundra Swans can be seen migrating south by the thousands.

Our Hawk Watch is a joint project of:

Delaware Nature SocietyDNREC logoDOS logo

In connection with:
Hawk Count logo

Ashland Nature Center Hawk Watch landscape map