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Tuesday September 8th, 2015

Posted at 10:00am

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Participants can adopt banded hawks and release them back into the wild at HawkFest 2015 (ERCA)

Ranking in the top three hawk watching spots in North America, the Holiday Beach Conservation Area’s unique geography and location makes for a grand spectacle every year as tens of thousands of birds of prey make their annual journey to nesting grounds in the south.

In recognition of their arduous journey, the Essex Region Conservation Authority along with the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory will celebrate with Hawk Festival 2015. The festival, which runs over the second and third weekends of September, brings together bird and other wildlife experts to share their expertise with budding naturalists, seasoned pros, and members of the general public.

“The Hawk Festival really has something for everybody, as we strive to make it appealing to everyone from experienced birders to people who just want to get outside and learn something new,” explained ERCA’s Director of Community Outreach Services Danielle Stuebing. “Regardless of your level of knowledge, the migration of thousands of raptors is a spectacle not to be missed.”

One of the most unique elements of the HawkFest is the ongoing banding and research conducted by the HBMO, which allowed Holiday Beach to become designated as an Important Bird Area of global significance. Whether you are an expert or novice birder, the opportunity to see these magnificent raptors weighed, measured, and banded, and then released back into the wild, is a spectacular moment that visitors will remember for years to come.

“We also look forward to welcoming our neighbours from across the border, who can enjoy the favourable exchange rate while taking in the fantastic migration,” Stuebing said, adding many Americans already cross the border to enjoy the festival.

The Festival, which runs from 9am to 3pm on September 12th and 13th and 19th and 20th, offers ongoing programming and a number of educational “walks & talks”. Full day offerings include: HBMO experts identifying hawks from the Hawk Tower, bird banding and adoptions, live hawk displays care of Kingsport Environmental and Wild Ontario, and a bird-centred smart phone scavenger hunt.

The educational programs are wide ranging. HBMO President Bob Pettit will give an introduction to identifying hawk species, a must for new birders. Jerry Jourdan, of the Erie Shores Birding Association, will demonstrate “digiscoping,” a low-cost solution to photographing distant species. Kory Renaud, of HBMO, will demonstrate the “next generation” of birding with an introduction to new technology and the e-Bird system. Those with an eye for photography can take in talks from professional photographers Glenn Gervais, of Southshore Outdoor Photography, and Ted Kloske, of Henry’s Canada.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. For a full list of programs and walks & talks, visit www.erca.org/birding.

The best raptor viewing time is from 9am until noon when the hawks fly low.

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