Rehabilitated Raptors ‘Get Their Wings’ at NH Audubon’s Raptor Release Events

Posted on October 2, 2015
Paul Bourgault releases female American Kestrel. Photo by Jennifer Esten.

Paul Bourgault releases a rehabilitated female American Kestrel. Photo by Jennifer Esten.

The annual Raptor Release Weekend at NH Audubon’s two raptor observatories on September 19 and 20 was full of excitement and coincided with near peak migration of Broad-winged Hawks, kicking off International Hawk Migration Week. Hundreds of spectators had the rare opportunity to watch several rehabilitated raptors fly into the wild – two of which, sibling American Kestrels, flying free for the first time.

The weekend began at Pack Monadnock on September 19 with Broad-winged Hawks, with both wild migrants flying overhead and a pair of rehabilitated birds (courtesy of Maria Colby from Wings of the Dawn) being set free. An adult Bald Eagle heralded the raptor release just minutes prior, passing directly overhead a crowd of nearly 150 onlookers atop the Peterborough summit. Big flight days tallying over 3,000 birds occurred both before and after the weekend itself, setting the stage for a record-breaking raptor tally in this the 11th consecutive year of migration monitoring at NH Audubon’s oldest observatory. For more on the record-breaking season (AND an unusual visitor) at Pack Monadnock, read this fantastic article by Francie Von Mertens, courtesy of the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript.

Apple pickers, hawk watchers, and other visitors swarmed the Carter Hill Orchard (and Raptor Observatory) in Concord on September 20, and the viewing platform had a steady stream of spectators to admire scenery and learn about raptor migration on a crisp fall day. NH Audubon’s Education Director, Kevin Wall, was on hand with the McLane Center’s star education bird, a Red-tailed Hawk. But, at release time, the American Kestrels stole the show. Siblings, male and female, both of which had been found in a nest box after their mother had perished, elicited excitement from the crowd as each made its initial appearance. In dramatic fashion, each bird gave onlookers a long look in the hands of its holders, Sam and Paul, before taking its initial flight. See the recent front page Concord Monitor story on the Carter Hill release.

Sam Cole releases a rehabilitated female American Kestrel. Photo by Rough Legged Photography.com

Sam Cole releases a rehabilitated female American Kestrel. Photo by Rough Legged Photography.com

Though the big numbers of raptors of Broad-winged Hawks are now past (and well on their journeys to South America), plenty of migration remains, and the majority of species reach their peak numbers during October. Join staff and volunteers on October 10 at both sites (rain date: Oct 11) for the Big Sit, a friendly, but competitive, effort to identify as many species of birds as possible from one site. These events are free and open to the public, but contributions and pledges are being accepted.

Both observatories are open to the public every day from 9-5, and learning is often a one-on-one experience with the staff naturalists. For information about school and other larger group visits, click here…>

A big thank you to our observatory major sponsors: Ed Reilly Subaru, The Mountain Corporation, Nature’s Green Grocer, and the Gilbert Verney Foundation, and to many individual donors.