by Seth Benz
2019 marked the 25th year of the Hawk Watch atop Cadillac Mountain at Acadia National Park, carried out by a combination of myself, five staff members from Acadia National Park, and 11 citizen science volunteers coordinated by Carol Thompson, a devoted volunteer with prior experience as a park employee. Of the 51 days of coverage, Carol was present for 39 days!
Between August 14 and October 26, we documented a total of 2,838 hawks during 274.25 hours of total observation (51 days), a yield of 10.34 hawks per hour. Daily counts, reported in hourly increments, were submitted to an online database www.hawkcount.org, which is administered by the Hawk Migration Association of North America. In addition, a total 2,551 visitors stopped by to learn about Hawk Watch or participate.
Volunteers amassed a combined total of 1,155 hours of service devoted to Hawk Watch. Volunteers included: Carol Thompson, Ed Hawkes, Anne Donovan, Steve Schellenger, Angi King-Johnston, Jim and Kathy Zeman, Chris and Joe Ferrara, Holly and Monty Evans, and Shari LaTulippe. ANP staff included Patrick Kark, Mickey Short, Daniel McDermott, Valerie Griffin, and Abby Danner.
Cadillac Mountain Hawk Watch’s 25 seasons of data are merged with 400 other raptor migration sites in North America in order to help scientists document fluctuations in the temporal and spatial movements of diurnal raptors. Long-term data collection gives us the ability to analyze data and derive population trends.
For example, sightings of bald eagles and peregrine falcons during Hawk Watch have increased since 1997, evidence that recovery efforts have been successful. However, both American Kestrel and Osprey observations have declined. These trends are a “red flag” or alert that changes are taking place in the species life cycles.
The Cadillac Mountain Hawk Watch has reached a significant milestone thanks to the dedicated and collaborative work and efforts of annual teams of park staff, volunteers, and partner organizations, such as Friends of Acadia and Schoodic Institute. Cumulatively, through the years, tens of thousands of visitors and many aspiring Junior Rangers have witnessed fall hawk migration atop Cadillac Mountain. May the passage of these magnificent birds of prey continue to compel us to carry on.