The Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO) uses long-term volunteer-powered research programs to track the fall migration of raptors through the Marin Headlands. Trainings are offered only once a year in July and early August for participation in either the Hawkwatch or Banding program.
All GGRO volunteers must be able to commit to one regular, full field day in the Marin Headlands every two weeks between mid-August through early December (i.e. every other Tuesday, every other Sunday, etc.). All training is provided. Hawkwatchers must be 18 years old or have an adult guardian hawkwatching with them; banders must be 18.
Volunteer hawkwatchers count migrating hawks as they pass through the Headlands. Hawkwatchers meet in the Headlands at 8:30 and count from 9:30–3:30 on Hawk Hill, then come back to the office for administrative tasks before leaving by 4:30. (Weather permitting; on heavy fog days Hawkwatchers usually wait until 1 pm see if it will clear, or sometimes they end up quitting early after being able to start on time.)
Volunteer banders trap and band raptors and take measurements on each hawk. Trainings and workdays are more rigorous for the banders, so there is a larger commitment. Banders' field days start at 7:45 and sometimes last until the evening, depending on weather and bird activity.
Each spring, the Golden Gate Raptor Obesrvatory (GGRO) recruits four research interns and two outreach interns. All GGRO interns help conduct fall hawkwatch and banding studies in the Marin Headlands, near San Francisco, CA. This internship requires a time commitment of six months (early July-December), a college degree in some biological science, and a passion for learning about raptor migration and research. Research interns will split their time evenly between the banding and hawkwatch programs, and can expect to work with a large and dedicated group of volunteer citizen scientists on a daily basis. Outreach interns will conduct regular public outreach programs in addition to participating in hawkwatch and banding activities.
Interns will learn to find and identify over 15 species of migratory raptor using binoculars and spotting scopes. They will also become familiar with counting birds using GGRO’s unique team based quadrant system. A day of Hawkwatch starts with meeting the team at 830AM, counting from 930AM-330PM, and finishing the day with data entry. Hawkwatch requires a positive attitude, good communication skills, decent eyesight/corrective lenses, and standing for long periods of time in hot, cold, foggy, and windy weather.
Interns will learn how to trap, band, and take morphometrics on birds of prey that migrate through the Marin Headlands. Banding days vary in length, but generally start at 745AM and last till after 600PM (depending on bird activity and weather). Banding requires sitting in a blind for 5 hours or more, working with others to make quick decisions, and the ability to run on slopes while avoiding obstacles.
You will be the face of the GGRO for those who visit Hawk Hill. You will give Hawk Talks every weekend during September and October and meet people of all ages. This is an opportunity to engage communities outside the scientific world, particularly schools, to teach the importance of raptors, migration, citizen science, and conservation. While participating in both hawkwatch and banding, you will also work independently to create curricula and materials for public presentations. Successful outreach interns are enthusiastic, indiscriminately friendly, able to adapt to follow the interests of a group, and self-directed.