Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn today joined birding enthusiasts and supporters of Fort Washington State Park in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Militia Hill Hawk Watch.
"What a milestone for both Fort Washington State Park and the dedicated volunteers who staff the Militia Hill Hawk Watch," the secretary told celebration attendees gathered on the park grounds. "It is hard to believe we are just minutes from Philadelphia and yet hundreds of migrating raptors are heading south overhead. I commend you on your 30th year of documenting these flights and fueling public interest in them."
Since Sept. 1, and through Oct. 31, volunteers have been daily monitoring southern migrations at the Montgomery County park, where visitors utilizing two observation areas can glimpse all 16 species of raptors migrating along the Atlantic Coast.
"Public interest in observing raptors and other migrating bird species from two observation areas never has been stronger at Fort Washington State Park," Dunn noted. "This would never be possible without the dedication of the volunteers before me. You staff the observation decks; keep the all-important numbers; and infect future volunteers with your passion and commitment."
Militia Hill Hawk Watch prides itself in counting migrating raptors as they move southward on their annual journey as far as Central and South America. Founded in 1988, it operates from 9 AM to 5 PMdaily, with dedicated volunteers providing valuable count data to the Hawk Migration Association of North America. The group delights in introducing visitors to the beauty of the state park and the many birds, other animals and insects that can be seen during their visit.
"I'm so glad we are celebrating 30 seasons of an amazing annual gathering that started with a card table and a few chairs in 1988," said Militia Hill Hawk Watch site coordinator Rich Conroy. "The combination of hawk migration and sharing with people what is going on in the sky above us, and where these birds are headed, always leaves me feeling wonderfully connected to our world beyond Militia Hill."
Militia Hill is one of many count sites throughout Pennsylvania which provide invaluable avian migration information through concerted citizen-science effort.
The Militia Hill Hawk watch has had an impressive tabulation of raptor species and numbers since 1988. The average season count is 11,088 raptors with a total of 321,553 in its past 29 years.
All 16 species that migrate along the East Coast are observed on a regular basis. The hawk watch's most spectacular day occurred on Sept. 15, 2013, when 18,055 broad-winged hawks migrated over Militia Hill.
Organizers welcome and encourage volunteers in the effort. Volunteer compilers will be on duty every day --- for a total of 61 days.
With an elevation of only 330 feet, and no large, nearby body of water, Militia Hill has no strong geographic features of importance to migration, and yet all East Coast raptor species are seen above the park grounds.
Detailed records of raptor observation and weather conditions are reported daily to the Hawk Mountain Migration Association of North America. They can be accessed at www.hawkcount.org.