Sacajawea Audubon
5Sep/13Off

Eyes To The Skies – Bridger Raptor Count Underway

Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon

Eyes to the Skies - Bridger Raptor Count in 23rd Season
Visitors are welcome!

Montana Audubon and HawkWatch International announce the 23rd season of raptor migration research along the crest of the Bridger Mountains, 15 miles NE of Bozeman, running now through November 5th. The best overall raptor viewing is mid-September to mid-October. Birders, hikers, and nature lovers are welcome at the observation station, where two expert observers are there daily, systematically counting all birds of prey on their annual southern migration. Bret Davis and Kalon Baughan are excited to return as our raptor count experts again this year.

According to Kalon, “Bret and I are stoked to be back on the mountain. At 8600 feet we have a spectacular 360 view to enjoy. We both love the birds and the challenge of identifying hawks and eagles in flight. We also take great pride in conducting this important population monitoring project in a rigorous, scientific manner.”

The long-term data collected at the Bridger Mountains site helps scientists learn more about raptor migration patterns as well as regional and continental population trends. Most importantly, the Bridger project is designed to monitor environmental changes, using these apex predators as valuable barometers of ecological health. The Bridger site consistently records the largest concentration of autumnal migrant Golden Eagles known in the lower 48 states. Recent Golden Eagle count totals have varied from 1,000 to 1,400 eagles per season, and up to 200 individuals on a peak migration day (usually during the first two weeks of October).

Steve Hoffman, Executive Director of Montana Audubon and Founder of HawkWatch International, emphasizes: “The Bridger Project is the most important migration site in the western United States for monitoring the health and trends of Golden Eagle populations.  The Bridger data are especially important now because there is credible scientific evidence for long-term declines in Golden Eagle numbers across much of the West.”

Visitors should drive to the parking area above the Bridger Bowl Ski Area facilities for an approximate two-hour hike to the observation point (2200’ elevation gain). For further information, including more specific directions for visiting the site as well as annual project reports, visit: www.mtaudubon.org/birds/raptor.html.

Montana Audubon, in partnership with HawkWatch International (HWI), has coordinated this scientific project for the past 5 years. HWI initiated these annual counts in 1991. Eagles, hawks, and falcons use the energy-saving updrafts created by strong winds along the crest of the Bridgers to migrate south, sometimes within close proximity to the viewing platform. Migrant raptors originate from breeding locales in northern Montana, western Canada, and Alaska, and their destinations include a wide range of latitudes (varying by species and populations), from the American Southwest & Mexico all the way to Central and South America.

Funding for the 2013 count is being provided by NaturEner USA (a wind power company with multiple projects in north-central Montana, including the recently commissioned 189 MW Rim Rock Wind Farm), USDA Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest), Sacajawea Audubon Society (Bozeman-based Audubon chapter), and several individual Montana Audubon donors.

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The mission of Montana Audubon is to promote appreciation, knowledge, and conservation of native birds, other wildlife, and natural ecosystems to safeguard biological diversity for current and future generations. Incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1982, Montana Audubon uses public policy, education, science, and habitat protection to fulfill its conservation mission. For more information please go to: www.mtaudubon.org.

HawkWatch International, a nonprofit organization operating eight raptor migration research sites in western North America and the Texas Gulf Coast, collaborates with many organizations to maintain scientific, long-term raptor monitoring programs across western North America.  HawkWatch International’s mission is to conserve the natural environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research, using raptors as indicators of ecosystem health. 

Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon

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