Tools and Tips for Spring Hawkwatching

With the warming weather, here at HWI we are getting excited to get outside and see some raptors! We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can be better prepared for your next spring birding trip. 

Get Comfortable Getting Outdoors

Although it may be obvious, being “outdoorsy” is a must if you want to hawkwatch. When you are birding you might be outside for long periods of time, possibly in scorching hot or below freezing temperatures. Become familiar with outdoor safety, do your research on the environment you plan to go hawkwatching, and gather your birding gear. Sun shirts/long sleeves, sunscreen, and wide-brimmed hats are a must if you don’t want to spend your week slathered in aloe after every birding trip. Plus you’ll make your dermatologist happy. 

Make Use of Online Birding Tools

The future is here and technology is at your fingertips for hawkwatching! Add these to your hawkwatching tool belt to make the most of your next trip…

This website is our go-to for improving our ID skills. If you are based in the western hemisphere, you can create lists based on location, type of call, taxonomy, and more that the site will then generate a quiz from. The site is a bit old and dated, but it gets the job done.

With eBird, you can better prepare yourself for your next trip with their website or phone app (it is worth noting that some features aren’t available on the phone version.) Before you head out, you can look up birding hot spots in your area or see what species have been spotted at your potential destination. On top of that, if you are really interested in seeing a particular species, you can search where they have been spotted to increase your chances of finding one.

Raptor ID App (Apple or Android)
How could we post this blog without shamelessly plugging our own app? The raptor ID app was made in partnership with Jerry Liguori and Brian Sullivan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. On there you can find calls, rang maps, ID descriptions, photos, and narrated videos of diurnal North American raptors. There is no cost to download the app and as they say…if it is for free, it is for me!

Raptor ID Group
If you are on Facebook, this raptor ID group will be your best friend. This is a great resource to improve your identification skills if you’re new or help you give back if you’re more experienced.

Follow Hawkwatching Ethics

Don’t make a birding faux pas, or even worse, put birds in danger by participating in harmful birding! Do not post locations of rare or sensitive species or nests. Never ever bait raptors in an attempt to get a photo or see a raptor up close. For those of you who don’t know, baiting is putting out live prey to lure in a raptor. Feeding wildlife, in general, is a big no-no because it habituates wildlife to humans and ultimately puts the wildlife, and even people, at risk. Lastly, leave your pup at home. I’m sure your dog is perfect and very well behaved, but your dog can be a disturbance and scare off birds.

Find Birds of a Feather

Birding is a great way to find community. Find a local group to hit the trails with not only for good company but also to grow and learn. This is a great way to pick up new tricks and to find mentors who can teach you the skills they’ve acquired.

This blog was written by Sammy Riccio, HWI’s Communications ManagerYou can learn more about Sammy here.

Photos by Dave Oleyar and Alex Paiement

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