September 24, a beautiful fall morning at Hitchcock Nature Area in the heart of the Loess Hills where 24 young birders, parents, grandparents, and friends enjoyed spending time in the hawk watch tower and raptor banding blind. Everyone was excited for this unique experience and anxious to get started.
Some of us started the morning with Bethany Thornton in the hawk watch tower. Bethany shared with us the importance of counting migrating raptors and some tips for identifying raptors in flight. The birds were slow to get started, but we soon spotted a distant Great Blue Heron, some Turkey Vultures starting to lift off, and an occasional Osprey riding the winds with their “m-shaped” wings. In between bouts of scanning the horizon, we were able to pick out some good birds in the trees below including a Wilson’s Warbler, Eastern Towhee, and we even heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch.
The rest of us started the morning in the raptor banding blind with experienced raptor bander Jerry Toll. Jerry shared with us his many experiences banding raptors. Although the nothing was caught in the first hour, we were lucky to get several close looks of different raptors including an Osprey. We also got up-close looks at and learned about the equipment needed to capture hawks. It was very exciting!
Young birders, parents, and friends rotated into the hawk watch tower and raptor banding blind for the remainder of the morning. We were treated with a Cooper’s Hawk captured at the banding blind, and several other good birds from the hawk watch tower and adjacent nature center including Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, and Broad-winged Hawks, a Peregrine Falcon, and even an adult Sabine’s Gull! Even though a storm front rained out some of us in the banding blind, we still had a great morning on this unique experience!
We’re grateful to Bethany Thornton and Jerry Toll for sharing their knowledge and experience with us, and to volunteer Ross Silcock for his leadership. You can view photos from our field trip here and our complete species list here.