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Summary of the 1995 Season

Chimney Rock Hawk Watch - 1995

When I think of the massive amount of time and effort it takes to make a project like this function each year, I need only look back to this past season and know it was all worth it. 1995 did not produce our greatest flight year (although with 19,545 counted this year, it did run a close second place to 1993). But with regards to virtually every other aspect of the watch, it was our most progressive and successful effort so far. Quite simply, 1995 was the beginning of the future for the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch. The basis of this success was certainly due to the extraordinary efforts of the Somerset County Park Commission who came through in a big way for 1995. Among their many accomplishments, the Commission was instrumental in getting our national research assistant program off the ground by graciously allowing the use of a park-owned residence to accommodate our two assistants. They not only provided the house, but they installed a new bathroom, stove and refrigerator as well. If that wasn't enough, substantial improvements were made to the hawk watch parking facilities, including the installation of a Chimney Rock entrance sign, and an emergency call box at the site. However, as everyone who came to the watch this year will tell you, there was one particular uptaking by the Park Commission that stood out from the rest. This was the construction of a spectacular observation platform at the watch site. It took everyone by surprise. Its construction and completion have in fact changed the watch forever, by making it safer and more accessible for both the public and those individuals conducting the watch. Once again, much thanks to the Somerset County Park Commission for their amazing efforts.

As each of the last six years has past, the watch has become a very popular location for nature enthusiasts from a great number of places. This year was no exception, the visitors to the watch from 5 states and 4 countries. Overall attendance reached an all-time high with over 1000 people visiting the watch during the season. I'm glad to say they weren't disappointed. The hawks were really flying this year. New individual season records were set for every species except Broad-winged Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk! The overall falcon flight was again one of the highest in North America for an inland ridge. Sharp-shinned Hawks seemed almost inexhaustible at times with the 4,475 counted being among the highest inland totals in the United States. Bald Eagles were everywhere as well. The 70 totaled for the season blitzed the 1993 record of 60. Additionally, a number of observers at Chimney Rock had the great fortune of witnessing a Eurasian Kestrel fly past the watch on Friday, October 6th. Amazingly, the bird was seen a number of times the next day, October 7th. Inclement weather on Friday night into Saturday morning had apparently deterred the bird from continuing its journey. Good flying weather returned on Sunday with the passage of a front, and our incredible visitor was not seen again. Even so, those lucky enough to have been there observed one of the rarest of avian vagrants found in North America. Fewer than 20 records of this common European bird have ever been confirmed on this continent! - Like I said, the hawks were really flying this year.

Over the years, hundreds of people have told me how much they enjoy coming up to the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch. Most point out and commend us on the overall educational and friendly team-like atmosphere we have created at the watch. The consensus has been that not only will you see a great number of hawks, and be allowed to directly assist in the count, but an official member of the watch is always there to teach you how to identify the birds. I take pride in knowing that the public appreciates our efforts. It just seems like common sense to me; the more that people enjoy their experience at Chimney Rock, the more successful the watch will be. This is a philosophy I plan to maintain and improve upon well into the future.

This year's report is, as usual, a full compilation of data collected over the three month duration of the watch. However, of particular interest in the expanded coverage we reserved for data collected on landbird migration this year. Although "technically" Chimney Rock is a hawk watch, as anyone who comes to the watch knows, we have always recorded a great deal of information on landbird migration. A number of people each year ask me why, if this is a hawk watch, do I spend so much time tracking landbird migration as well? I usually answer them with a question; Why, if I'm already spending so much time conducting research at the site, should we concentrate our efforts on one or two families of birds, when hundreds of landbirds and waterfowl, are also feeding/resting or passing through the site during migration? To me, as a biologist, it would be hypocritical and inefficient not to record them. In fact, it is my goal to continue expanding data collection on all avian species over the next couple of seasons. The addition of feeders which were very popular with the public this year at the site was just the beginning.

Finally, I can't stress enough how grateful I am for the help and support I receive with the watch every year. A great number of people were integral in helping conduct and maintain the site through the season. Their effort, dedication and knowledge have gone a long way in talking this project to new heights. They are: Rose MacConnell and the rest of the Somerset County Freeholders, Ray Brown, Jim Dunwitty, and Jane Butts as well as the entire Somerset County Parks Commission, Mike Anderson and Richard Kane of the New Jersey Audubon Society, Dr. James Applegate and Dr. Leonard Wolgast of Cook College, Wayne and Else Greenstone of the Montclair Hawk Watch, Dug Aquila, Leif Austad, Mike Balogh, Mike Bisignano, Anne Blessing, Ann Browne, Steve Byland, Linda Byland, Richard Dardas, David Dendler, Patty Dexter, Linda Federico, Don Freiday, Sharon Fullagar, Darryl Gibson, Lynn Groves, George Hall, Gary Himber, Deuane Hoffman, Ed Johnson, Henry Kielblock, Lenore Kielblock, Dana Knowlton, Steve Kuitems, Laurie Larson, Paul Lauber, Robert Lin, Kathleen Lynch, Chris Magarelli, Doug Max, Arlene Oley, Jennifer Ottinger, Al Pochek, Anne Purcell, Tony Rosa, Bob Sanders, Frank Sencher, Roman Senyk, David Shealer, Curt Simon, Nancy Slater, Dick Turse, Todd Watts, Charlie West, Jim Williams, Chris Williams, Paula Williams, Libby Wolf, David Womer, Pat Zega, Joe Zurovchak, and Patty Zywiec.

I'd also like to give a special thanks to Steve Byland for compiling and analyzing the tremendous amount of data collected at the watch over the last 6 years.

Once again, special thanks to everyone. There wouldn't be a Chimney Rock Hawk Watch without you.

For the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch

Chris Aquila

This article originally appeared in an information packet about the 1995 season at the Chimney Rock Hawk Watch. It is reproduced here with the permission of the author.