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 hawkwatch.org 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.


Road Trip!

I’ll be traveling around mostly the Eastern Front next week, and posting frequently to facebook with updates and pictures – friends, birds, adventures, and the stunning vistas of the great state of Montana! There’s something magical about the prairie in the springtime…


Here’s where you’ll find me.

Great Falls

Monday May 13:

  • Upper Missouri Breaks Audubon meeting at FWP on Giant Springs Road, 7pm. I’ll give a general update on last year’s effort, and the outlook for Fall 2019. Really looking forward to seeing our friends at this one!
  • For more about this group, check out: https://www.facebook.com/uppermissouribreaksaudubon/


  • Tuesday, May 14: Last Chance Audubon Society meeting at FWP MT Wild on Broadwater Ave. I’ll be mostly hanging around with some handouts, catching up with some new and familiar faces, and listening to a really neat talk by author Sneed B. Collard III.
  • More here: https://www.facebook.com/lastchanceaudubon/

Cut Bank

  • Thursday, May 15: Cut Bank Brewery, 5-7pm. Slideshow and hangout. Hope to cross paths with just about everyone here!
  • Saturday, May 17: Cut Bank Pool Park, Bird Walk, 9am. Meet me to comb the park for spring migrants. 149 species have been documented at this little bitty park on the Eastern Front. Maybe we’ll find species # 150?

See the Cut Bank Pool Park species list here: https://ebird.org/hotspot/L2884763



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