By Michelle Robertson
For the Parks Conservancy
To celebrate our favorite time of year—raptor migration season, that is—and the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory’s incredible 35th year in existence, we’re taking a look back at the best photos from hawkwatch over the last few years.
There were sharp-shinned hawks and merlins, bald eagles and osprey; more than 22 red-tailed hawks were counted every hour on average! In all, the 200-plus volunteers, interns and staff members spotted more than 24,300 raptors from their perch atop Hawk Hill, and banded and released a total of 1,300 birds.
If these photos have you inspired, head to Hawk Hill between now and mid-December to check out the raptors for yourself. Explains GGRO Director Allen Fish: “There is no substitute for seeing a hawk in the wild, gliding over the Marin Headlands, leaning into the south, disappearing into the cityscape of San Francisco.”
Hawk Talks take place every Saturday and Sunday at noon throughout September and October (except September 1, October 12 and 13). No need to RSVP—simply show up on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands and look for a big banner west of the main hawkwatching platform. GGRO officials recommend you arrive by 10 a.m. to find parking and enjoy the scenery.
If you’re interested in being an official hawkwatcher and contributing to the annual hawk count, we recruit new volunteers in the spring for the next year’s fall count. Learn more about Hawk Talks, volunteering, and the GGRO here. And follow our daily hawk count here!
A juvenile Northern Harrier after banding. GGRO bands an average of just 10 Northern Harriers per season, but counted 600 Northern Harrier sightings from Hawk Hill in 2018. Courtesy Jeff Robinson
A juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk before release. Courtesy Siobhan Ruck
A banded juvenile Red-tailed Hawk takes flight after release. Courtesy Robyn Boothby
Hawkwatchers work to quickly identify an Accipiter as it flies past Hawk Hill. Courtesy Phoebe Parker Shames
Park visitors admire a juvenile Cooper's Hawk during a Hawk Talk at Hawk Hill. Courtesy Phoebe Parker Shames
A Ferruginous Hawk is captured flying past Hawk Hill in November of 2016. The 2019 season touts the earliest sighting of a Ferruginous during the fall migration at Hawk Hill. An adult Ferruginous Hawk was sighted from the hill on August 14, the third day of the 2019 fall migration. Courtesy Don Bartling
An adult Cooper's Hawk, one of GGRO's most frequently banded species, is photographed before release. Courtesy Siobhan Ruck