Hawk Watch to highlight fall raptor migration

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Dianne Moller, a licensed educator, rehabilitator, falconer and eagle handler, will give several presentations, featuring a snowy owl, golden eagle and peregrine falcon, at Hawk Watch. The event will be held Saturday, Oct. 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette. (NIT file photo)

Attendees will have an opportunity to take a photo with a golden eagle at Hawk Watch.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

For the second year, the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette, in conjunction with the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and Upper Iowa Audubon Society, will host Hawk Watch. A celebration of the fall migration of raptors along the Mississippi Flyway, the event will be held on Saturday, Oct. 10, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Previously held at Effigy Mounds National Monument for many years, Hawk Watch moved to the Wetlands Centre last year. Since one of the Refuge’s main objectives, when it was created in 1924, was to preserve a breeding area for migratory birds, McGregor District Manager Rich King said the event is a good fit, especially since Oct. 11-17 is National Wildlife Refuge Week.

“The Mississippi River corridor is North America’s migration super highway. It’s second to none in importance,” King said. “Now, you see the song birds migrating, then, eventually the ducks and raptors, followed by the swans in November.”

Of the migrating birds, King said raptors, who migrate south via thermals, are fairly easy to spot.

At Hawk Watch, King said attendees will have an opportunity to view the migration and identify birds with the help of experts from the Audubon Society.

People can also check out the capture, banding and release of live raptors at an off-site location. Buses will leave the Wetlands Centre every half-hour. Hopefully there will be some action, noted King.

“Live wildlife can be unpredictable,” he said.

A variety of live raptors will be on display at the Wetlands Centre during several presentations throughout the day.

Dianne Moller, a licensed educator, rehabilitator, falconer and eagle handler, will hold a morning program featuring a snowy owl. In the afternoon, she will present with a peregrine falcon and golden eagle. 

One of the more exciting opportunities of Hawk Watch, mentioned Wetlands Centre board member Rinda Ferguson, is that attendees will get the chance to take a photo with the golden eagle.

In addition to showing off her birds, Moller will speak about the conservation efforts done through the Hoo’s Woods Raptor Center, which she founded in 1998, near Milton, Wis. This year, Moller was named Wildlife Conservationist of the Year by the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.

The Raptor Center from the University of Minnesota will present, as well, featuring a bald eagle and possibly other birds of prey.

Aside from live raptor viewing opportunities, Hawk Watch will provide hands-on, nature-based activities for kids. Wetlands Centre volunteers will offer snacks, drinks and other items for sale as a fundraiser.

Ferguson said Hawk Watch is one of many events the Wetlands Centre has hosted to promote its mission of re-connecting people with nature.

“It’s an opportunity to understand and appreciate the co-existence between wildlife and man and the importance in preserving the world we live in,” she said. “The Wetlands Centre’s board of directors and staff feel very proud and honored to be able to partner with the Upper Iowa Audubon Society and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide such a great, free, family-oriented, nature-based event.”

Hawk Watch will offer something for everyone, no matter their interest level, King added.

“Even if you’re not into hawks, birds or the migration, you can still learn about the Refuge,” he said. “Everyone should care about the Refuge’s scenic beauty and recreational opportunities. We have a phenomenal resource that’s the equivalent of being right next to the Grand Canyon. It has the same protection and appreciation.”

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