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Ripley Hawk Watch group enjoys migrating birds

March 24, 2016
By Gene Pauszek ( , Westfield Republican

It was a chance meeting on March 16 traveling along Route 5. I spied a small group of people huddled in a parking space on the lake side of the road, bundled up in warm clothing, looking at the sky and obviously having a good time.

They were too far away from a sporting event, so an investigation was launched to find out what was up. The five people were Gil and Jann Randell, Jill and Beril Adams and Mel Freeborough, all members of the Ripley Hawk Watch, a group that is affiliated with the Hawk Migration Association of America (HMANA).

The RHW group formally began its season on March 15 and will submit daily reports on the migration of hawks, eagles, vultures and other birds to the HMANA. These reports can be reviewed at, along with dozens of other sites in North America. Annual reports are also available on the HMANA's website located at

Article Photos

Photo by Gene Pauszek
Pictured are members of the Ripley Hawk Watch. They are, in front, from left to right: Mel Freeborough and Gil Randell. In the back are: Jill Adams, Jann Randell and Beril Adams. The group was out bird watching on March 16 along Route 5.

The group was a friendly bunch who would take turns looking up in the sky with the aid of binoculars and spotting scopes. Those watching would announce the presence of various birds with great amusement, calling out directions so their companions could also locate them. Evidently, springtime brings thousands of hawks, eagles and vultures over the Ripley site, with the birds heading toward their nesting areas, passing through a corridor between the Lake Erie shore and the Allegany Plateau, a few miles south of the lake.

The watch ends on May 15, and since 1985, 21 species of raptors and vultures have been recorded, with more than a quarter of a million raptors officially counted. The birds start migrating in February, increasing in March, peaking in mid April and declining by May.

The RHW estimates that more than 5,000 raptors can pass through in a day in mid-April while some of the rarities the group has spied passing over include: Swallow-tailed hawks, black vultures, Mississippi kites, ferruginous hawks, swainsons hawks, three whooping cranes, western meadowlarks, sandhill cranes, great egrets, American bitterns and common loons.

The Ripley Hawk Watch welcomes experienced and novice birders to join the group, which was very friendly and explained, "It's a fun, passive pastime. It's something old people can do."

They had another visitor earlier the same day, who was from Homeland Security, and said with a smile, that he too was looking for another type of migrant. If you do visit with the group, dress warmly, bring binoculars and a folding chair and maybe a lunch. I also spied a Port-a-Potty on site, which may offer a different kind of relief. For more information, call 777-0093, or contact Gil Randell at



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