Wonders never cease. This essential thing, there is always something new to learn, is one of the things that keeps me walking out the door and right back out observing the natural world over and over again. And while it is our friend Arthur who is standing in that space at the CBHW, in this time, drinking in what there is to learn, I can at least make tables at a distance and wonder as well – and wonders never cease!

What started as a thing that seemed interesting because of rough-legged hawks is simply revealing what is interesting about that thing for what it is, which is, through September 30, 2021, this:

Turkey Vulture201100
Golden Eagle31975823812
Bald Eagle29193649647
Northern Harrier92104774509
Sharp-shinned Hawk84752753113
Cooper’s Hawk221102561
Northern Goshawk2010112
Broad-winged Hawk37041170
Swainson’s Hawk1073714263810
Red-tailed Hawk1083420520014544
Rough-legged Hawk038156243271236
Ferruginous Hawk6255822482
American Kestrel84272991
Peregrine Falcon101130
Prairie Falcon42523208
Unknown Eagle001212
Unknown Raptor1162951
Unknown Accipiter1081400
Unknown Falcon003110
Unknown Buteo2521202611
Effort (hours)358.7558.5431.523309934.75

A glaring highlight here is obviously the Swainson’s hawk flight (clear evidence that starting August 15 to better capture this flight was well worth it), but there are little tidbits of interesting across the board.

We’re delighted to have a seasoned counter well-versed in the raptor ecology of the immediate area who we were super lucky to drop on the coulee for the season, and this certainly is a contributing factor to how the 2021 column is stacking up, but don’t let the overall larger numbers distract from the play here with (1) starting earlier and (2) annual variability and (3) things we just don’t yet know. The project is young for a hawkwatch, and the practice of open country hawk migration observation is also young.

I’m going to just let these numbers simmer out here and let it play…

Enjoy October and may your wonders never cease!

– Kate

Fall 2019 Season Summary

The Cut Bank Hawkwatch was studied for its second full season in 2019, thanks to generous support from HMANA, the Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon Society, the Glacier County Conservation District, and numerous individuals. Logistical support was provided by HawkWatch International. Forrest English counted the flight with key assistance from Andrew Burmester, Dan Stoken, Kate Atkins, and visits from Beth Hill and the gang from Great Falls. We were delighted that Dan Casey (Jewel Basin Hawk Watch) counted a full day for us in September, pulling in a diverse buteo and eagle flight of 43 birds. Thanks also to Sasha Auer for the amazing Rough-legged Hawk shirt designs and sales support.

From September 1 through November 15, counters occupied the site on 69 days (12 more days than 2018), for a total of 431.51 (2018: 330 hours) – an increased effort over the 2018 season. The average outing was 6.3 hours. This effort yielded a season total of 859 migrants of 17 identifiable species. Thanks to our many donors, counting commenced on September 1, two weeks earlier than the 2018 season. Accordingly, all-time high counts of Swainson’s Hawks (142) and Ferruginous Hawks (58) were recorded. The last Swainson’s Hawk of the season was observed on 9 October, while Ferruginous Hawks continued through 1 November. During our focus month of October, 201.1 hours were observed overall, at 7.2 hours per day on average. Rough-legged Hawk numbers came in a lower than in previous years, at 156 birds (for 2016: 236, 2017: 271, 2018: 243). The standout day of the season was 15 October, with the single-day high count of Rough-legged Hawks at 39 birds, and an overall tally of 95 birds. Also of note this year were 10 total Northern Goshawks.

The final count was 1 Turkey Vulture, 4 Osprey, 36 Bald Eagles, 47 Northern Harriers, 52 Sharp-shinned Hawks, 10 Cooper’s Hawks, 10 Northern Goshawk, 4 Broad-winged Hawks, 205 Red-tailed Hawks, 156 Rough-legged Hawks, 142 Swainson’s Hawks, 58 Ferruginous Hawks, 75 Golden Eagles, 7 American Kestrels, 7 Merlin, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 5 Prairie Falcons, 0 Gyrfalcon, 8 Unknown Accipiters, 21 Unknown Buteos, 1 Unknown Eagle, 3 Unknown Falcons, and 6 Unknown Raptors.

To sift data yourself, visit or dunkadoo.

2021 Season

We’re currently gearing up for the 2021 season after a pause in 2020. We’ll update the blog with a long, long overdue summary of the 2019 count soon.

Watching hawks in Montana

Cut Bank isn’t the only place to watch hawks in Montana. You can of course watch hawks all day long in Montana if you know where to look, but here’s a rundown of both established and experimental hawk migration study sites across the state.


Image courtesy of HMANA – see map here:

Bridger Mountains Hawkwatch

Montana’s original massive autumn Golden Eagle-heavy hawk watch site not too far from Bozeman. HawkWatch International has really useful information about visiting this site at the link provided above.


GEMS (Golden Eagle Migration Survey)

For another huge Golden Eagle flight right in your face with a stunning view – and some tough, tough hawk watchers – visit this site in the Big Belt Mountains in the autumn season. This site is coordinated by our friends at Montana Audubon.


Jewel Basin Hawk Watch

Operated by the Flathead Audubon Society, Jewel Basin Hawk Watch is Montana’s premiere Accipiter monitoring site, perched on the crest of the Swan Range in the Jewel Basin Hiking Area on Flathead National Forest. Surveys run from the last week of August until access is limited by snow, usually in late October. Reached by a hike of a little more than 2 miles and gaining 1400’ in elevation, the views from this site alone are well worth the trip. Mountain goats often accompany the counters, and bear spray is recommended!


MPG Ranch

A rare spring and fall migration study site, operated within the large, robust umbrella of the MPG Ranch. With more than 15,000 acres of conservation property in Western Montana, MPG Ranch stewards large, undeveloped landscapes for wildlife habitat and the enjoyment of future generations. They conduct research and collaborate with other local organizations and researchers that design and implement outreach and public education events.


Camp Baker Hawk Watch / Eagle Watch

A pilot autumn count site along the extremely scenic Smith River, in the southwest corner of the Little Belts.


These folks are in Alberta, Canada, but really, it’s not that far…

Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation

Home to the closest migration sites the north of Cut Bank, since 1992, Rocky Mountain Eagle Research Foundation (RMERF) volunteers have performed annual raptor migration counts at the same site location in the Kananaskis Country, Alberta, spring and fall; significantly providing data to the understanding of and amazement in watching Golden Eagles. Of particular interest to us, RMERF is studying the flight at Vicki Ridge, near Beaver Mines, a little off the Front – with tantalizing similarities to the flight at Cut Bank.


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