August 2018

Vol. 46, No. 4

Soaring with Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch

Steve Anderson

Mt. Watatic Hawk Watch. All photographs by Shawn P. Carey.

Editor's note: From time to time, Bird Observer publishes articles from organization in the Association of Massachusetts Bird Clubs about their history, accomplishments, or activities. We would like to make this a more regular feature of the journal. If you would like to write an article about your Massachusetts or other New England bird club, query or submit the article to

More than ever these days, I'm finding that some of life's simplest pleasures can also be its most precious. Take birding with a few friends, for example. By simultaneously connecting with people and nature we can create a unique shared experience in space and time that enriches us all. This special bond serves to unify, inspire, inform, instruct, and reward everyone involved. It brings out the best of what makes us human in the wonderful and wondrous world we all call home.

My personal role in such affairs has been and remains largely and strongly sustained by my membership in Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch (EMHW). Never heard of it? Haven't even faint awareness of its existence? Not to worry. I'm more than glad to give you a crash course on who we are, what we do, and how we came to be. Please read on.

In a word, EMHW is a club. No, not the sort found slung over the shoulder of Alley Oop or cradled in the skilled hands of Tiger Woods. We're the other type of club: an organization such as a book club or a gardening club, or any other group that has at its core a mutual passion and purpose. Comprising an eclectic and diverse—though certainly not exclusive—cast of characters, we are brought and bound together by the powerful draw of our common interest in birds of prey. Said interest level can range in intensity and temperature from tepid to nearly thermonuclear, no exaggeration. Some of our number may reach feverish fanaticism in their pursuit of a rare sighting or the elusive "big flight."

The primary mission of our members is the protection and preservation of all avian apex predators, from the diminutive American Kestrel to the colossal California Condor. Efforts to that end take many forms and are manifest in myriad ways. We steer clear of preaching, but we're never too shy or proud to proselytize on the birds' behalf. Their cause is our calling, their destiny our duty, and their future our firm commitment. More than any other single thing, our task is to spread the word—wherever, whenever, and however we can. Much of this aim is accomplished at our formal fall meeting, typically convened on the Friday following Labor Day. That's the high profile event, of course, but we strive to stay productively engaged year-round.

We offer an occasional winter workshop on raptor identification and regularly send a small delegation to participate in the Mass Audubon Birders Meeting and the Eagle Festival at the Joppa Flats Education Center. We also organize and orchestrate outings to various hawk watch sites during the spring and fall migration periods. In addition EMHW gives moral and monetary support to a number of deserving individuals and groups. Recipients have included Tom Sayers and Joey Mason for their tireless work with breeding Kestrels, Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), NorthEast Hawk Watch, Friends of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, and HawkCount, to name only a few. In short, we share our love of raptors and our message of concern for their continued wellbeing with anyone who cares to listen.

Who started Eastern Massachusetts Hawk Watch? The credit goes not to a single person, but to a couple who are widely known and highly esteemed in the circle of birding and birders. Many, if not most of you may have already met these fine folks. Perhaps you've stood side by side scanning the skies over Wachusett Mountain or trudged through the dunes of Plum Island in their company, all the while trading tales and swapping stories. If that has been your good fortune, no further introduction is needed. If not, take advantage of any opportunity to make their acquaintance. They may have slowed down a step or two, but they're still going strong.

In case you have yet to figure it out and choose not to venture a guess, their names are Paul and Julie Roberts. He gets the majority of the attention and accolades, but her dedicated work behind the scenes has been of no less value or significance. Together they built the nest, incubated and hatched the egg, fed and reared the chick, and nurtured the fledgling until it flew off on its own. More than four decades later, the bird that was their idea soars on. It thrives and will flourish as long as people like you and me have the courage and conviction to care for this good earth and every creature that inhabits it. Thanks, you guys. Let's do it!

Wachusett Mountain Hawk Watch.

It's my pleasure to offer several sincere invitations. First, join us for our annual meeting (the official indoor gathering). It will be held at the Woburn Elks Club on Friday September 7, 2018. Fine complimentary refreshments will be provided during the social hour, which begins at 6:00 pm. After we briefly tend to club business matters, we will cheerfully and expectantly surrender the podium, microphone, laser pointer, and remote to the evening's keynote speaker. The roster of presenters over the years reads like a Who's Who in Hawkwatching. Their programs never fail to entertain and educate, captivate, stimulate, and motivate our ranks. We wrap things up with the always-popular raffle.

Next become a member. We're an all inclusive, equal opportunity outfit. If you have an affinity for hawks and are willing to part with the modest $10 cost of yearly dues, you're in! Welcome. For a membership application or renewal form, go to

Finally, roust up a couple of friends and get yourselves out to a watch site, where the real action awaits. If the birds are few and far between, you can surely count on the camaraderie. But when the weather, wind, and time of year combine to trigger raptors' irresistible urge to migrate, you may well witness an extraordinary spectacle—thousands of hawks traveling en masse. Here's hoping….

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