Delaware Hawk Watches
DOS organizes the two Hawk Watches that are run in Delaware in partnership with the DNREC and the Delaware Nature Society. They occur simultaneously at two locations at the north and south end of the state. The results are published annually in the DOS journal, the Delaware Ornithologist.
The watches are staffed by a professional counter every day from September 1 through November 30 (8am to 3pm). The public are welcome to drop in at any time. If you are lucky and hit the right conditions, you can enjoy the sight of dozens (sometimes hundreds!) of migrating hawks filling the air.
The Two Locations
The two watches are in very different geographical locations so a different population of birds flies over each one. Both watches get similar species, but the number of each species varies by location. Both report data to the HMANA (Hawk Migration Association of North America) data base and contribute to the understanding of raptor movement in the Western Hemisphere.
Ashland Nature Center
The Ashland Hawk Watch is located in the rolling hills of the Piedmont at Ashland Nature Center in Hockessin. Ashland gets most of the Broad-winged Hawks and most of the few Golden Eagles. Raptors flying over Ashland are following the ridges of the Piedmont, and most are believed to head south along the western side of the Chesapeake Bay.
Cape Henlopen State Park
The Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch is located along the Atlantic coast in Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes. Cape Henlopen has more falcons and Ospreys. The migrating raptors that fly south over Cape Henlopen are following the coast, and are either coming from Cape May, NJ or following the Delaware River to its mouth.
Ashland Nature Center
Cape Henlopen State Park Hawk Watch
Professional Hawk Watchers
DOS is thrilled that Jen Ottinger returned to count hawks at Cape Henlopen for 2020 and is returning for 2021! Jen has extensive raptor-watching experience at Cape Henlopen, and we are incredibly lucky to have her eyes and skill yet again. When the raptor flight is slow, you can be entertained with seabirds and ducks migrating south along the coast, and dolphins swimming just past the waves.
DOS is very pleased that David Brown returned for his fouth year counting hawks at Ashland in 2020 and we hope he returns for 2021. David is a very experienced hawk counter and his flight photography, particularly of raptors, has added greatly to our enjoyment and understanding of the birds passing through northern Delaware.
Volunteers and Visitors
Both Hawk Watches seek volunteers to help scan the skies, record data, and warmly welcome visitors, and any help you can provide will be rewarded with some amazing wildlife spectacles in two beautiful and scenic locations. The hawk watches are often the epicenter of autumn birding in Delaware and on any weekend you will find a good number of birders at the watch sites enjoying the spectacle as well as meeting new and old friends.
If you would like to volunteer at the Ashland Hawk Watch, please contact Joe Sebastiani (302-239-2334, ext 115 or [email protected])
If you would like to volunteer at Cape Henlopen, please contact Sue Gruver (302-645-6390 or [email protected])
Funding for the hawk watches is provided through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program of the State of Delaware. This program provides Delaware the resources necessary to conserve our ‘species of greatest conservation need’ as identified in the Delaware Wildlife Action Plan.
Eagles over Ashland
David Brown captured this amazing image of an immature Golden Eagle (above) interacting with an immature Bald Eagle soaring over Ashland Hawk Watch.