Hawk Watch will spotlight fall raptor migration

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Marquette’s Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, in conjunction with the Upper Iowa Audubon Society, will host Hawk Watch on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. One of the event highlights will be live bird presentations with a red-tailed hawk and peregrine falcon. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Celebrate the fall migration of hundreds of thousands of raptors and other birds along the Mississippi River Flyway at Hawk Watch on Saturday, Oct. 7. Marquette’s Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, in conjunction with the Upper Iowa Audubon Society, will host the 33rd annual event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The day will include live bird presentations, bird spotting and identification, a nature storytelling performance, face painting and other kid’s activities. The free event will appeal to families as well as both amateur and more experienced birders, said Wetlands Centre Director Alicia Mullarkey.

“It’s a place to kickstart people’s interest,” she said, “but it’s also good for those who frequently [birdwatch]. Birders can gather and share their interest.”

Mullarkey said she’s pleased the Wetlands Centre can again host the event, which ties directly into the venue’s mission.

“We’re trying to get people out in nature and exploring nature,” she shared.

At Hawk Watch, nature will even be brought directly to attendees through live bird presentations offered by staff from the Iowa Raptor Project. Two presentations will be given, one at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m., featuring both a red-tailed hawk and peregrine falcon. Presenters will speak about the birds’ biology and identification, along with the raptor migration and banding process.

“It’s a good opportunity to see birds up close and learn more about them,” Mullarkey said. “It really helps you gain an appreciation for the birds, especially when you can hear from experts who work with them all the time.”

At 11:15 a.m., storyteller Terry Visger will perform a set of nature stories called “Tales with Tails.” The stories, said Mullarkey, will explain how animals developed certain characteristics.

“This is something different for Hawk Watch,” she noted. “Storytelling is a great way to learn. It’s an art. Although it will be catered to kids, everyone will enjoy it.”

Throughout the day, kids can also enjoy face painting and several hands-on, educational activities, including creating a raptor silhouette on a stick. 

The Friends of the Marquette Driftless Area group will man a food stand and the Wetlands Centre’s gift shop will be open, as well.

Outside, birding experts will be on-hand with spotting scopes and binoculars to help visitors identify raptors and other birds passing through the area. They’ll also keep a hawk count, noting the number of hawks they see.

“This is part of a bigger, nation-wide event where people are gathering to collect data,” Mullarkey explained.

From around 10 a.m. to noon, when hawks are more active, she said volunteers will also be at Pikes Peak State Park, south of McGregor, with scopes and binoculars. Although they’ll keep a hawk count there, most of the counting will take place at the Wetlands Centre.

Hawk Watch is normally held the second weekend in October, but was moved up a week this year. Mullarkey said the earlier date may yield more raptors and a greater diversity of raptors. The area’s bluffs make it a prime location.

“Along flyway routes, those are good places to view hawks and get good counts,” she remarked. “You can really learn a lot about the importance of the Mississippi River Flyway and the area.”

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