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Junior HawkWatch Program along the Detroit River
Midwest Region, October 20, 2019
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Jr. HawkWatchers look on at Naturalist, Natalie Cypher, as she explains to them about the female Cooper's hawk she holds in her hands.
Jr. HawkWatchers look on at Naturalist, Natalie Cypher, as she explains to them about the female Cooper's hawk she holds in her hands. - Photo Credit: USFWS
One of the happy Jr. HawkWatcher's shows off her certificate at completion of the program.
One of the happy Jr. HawkWatcher's shows off her certificate at completion of the program. - Photo Credit: USFWS

“Check it out! Short wings! Long tail!”

“Flap! Flap! Glide!”

“An accipiter!”

The shouts of a group of Junior HawkWatchers filled the air along the banks of the Detroit River on a crisp autumn afternoon. The sky danced between cloudy and blue as little specks of raptors soared overhead on their migrations south.
Lake Erie Metropark is a prime hawk watching spot along the Detroit River. Each year between mid-August and December, a paid hawk counter with a number of dedicated volunteers sit out along the river looking up and counting…all day long.

The partnership between the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the International Wildlife Refuge Alliance, Lake Erie Metropark, and the Hawk Migration Association of North America helps to bring an expert hawk counter to the park each year. Along with other hawk counting sites throughout the world, an abundance of data helps scientists to learn more about the migration of these incredible birds.

The past two years, the organizations, including partnership with Michigan DNR’s Outdoor Adventure Center, have started to work together to inspire young people to get out and look up. The Hawk Migration Association of North America created a fun and interactive Jr. HawkWatcher booklet that is available to anyone who would like to learn more. Along with hands-on activities at the Outdoor Adventure Center and outside at the actual HawkWatch site at Lake Erie Metropark, young people are able to connect with the activity of bird watching on a new level.

This past Sunday at the HawkWatch, visitors were delighted to be able to see up close a Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii), that was banded at the park that same day. As the Junior HawkWatchers stood closely and listened to the naturalist describe characteristics of the hawk, they were able to witness things they had learned come to life before them.

When it came time to release the young female Cooper’s hawk, the crowd stood around and counted down from three. She took off, wings spread out, flap flap flap, into a tree to rest a moment and look back at the curious young souls, whose eyes were glued to her, waiting for her to take off again.

Finally, she took off… flap, flap, glide. The humans looking up were left with a feeling of relief and an unspoken hope that she would make it to her wintering grounds and return to the Detroit River as an older and wiser hawk, to be counted once again in years to come.


Contact Info: Jennifer Braatz, 734-288-6459, jennifer_braatz@fws.gov
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