On September 6th, 2016, I leave NH by bicycle to travel south following the Broad-winged Hawk migration from New Hampshire to South America. All going well, I expect to cross five time zones, 40 degrees of latitude, and 5,000 miles in pursuit of the birds.
Biologists at the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory in southern New Hampshire record several thousand migrant Broad-winged Hawks during a few days in mid-September (banner photo taken above my Hancock yard, September 18, 2011). My exact route will be determined by a combination of retro and cutting edge technology – I will follow several individual hawks tagged by Hawk Mountain with GPS transmitters along what is essentially a known route that traces the Appalachian Mountain Range to the Gulf Coast. I will continue west and south through Central America, ending in Columbia sometime in the spring of 2017.
Big hawk day at Kekoldi, Costa Rica, October 12 2015
The project is the research phase of a book that will narrate the birds’ epic journey from a perspective best encapsulated by the old adage that “you never truly know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes”. The challenges that we will both face are simultaneously different and similar; we will both have to endure physiological stress and inhospitable weather; we will both have to find food and shelter along the way; we will both have to navigate borders, new territories, and new languages. Apart from my glaring inability to fly, the single major difference is life expectancy. There is a 50% chance that the hawk will have perished by the time I return to New Hampshire in 2017 (I am estimating my chances of returning at 100%).
Otherwise, theirs is an easy story to tell — the migration is one of the great natural wonders of the world. By the time New Hampshire’s hawks reach Central America, they will have joined with others in a gathering wave of birds moving south along the Appalachian Flyway, which will merge with flyways coming from the mid-continent and the west. It is not uncommon for single day counts to reach into the hundreds of thousands at several pinch points in Central America, where birds already congested by the Isthmus are funneled between the coast and adjacent uplands. Despite this, hawk migration remains little known outside of the small brethren of hawkwatchers. It is my wish that this project will provide an increased focus on the wonder that is bird migration.
I welcome you to join me in any one of the following ways:
- Subscribe to the website for updates.
- Spread the word by email, Facebook, or social media of your choice.
- Consider joining me by bicycle for a part of the route.
- Providing me refuge for a night.
- Support the project with a financial contribution at Kettle of One
Feel free to email me at email@example.com.