New Brunswick

Hawk Watch project to help conserve birds of prey

A new project called Hawk Watch is monitoring birds of prey in New Brunswick, which should help conservation efforts.

New Brunswick will soon know how many birds of prey migrate through the province thanks to a new project called Hawk Watch.

Project co-ordinator Todd Watts is monitoring more than 13 species of birds from the top of Greenlaw Mountain, which overlooks the St. Croix River, near St. Andrews.

The project is expected to help conservation efforts, he said.

"Up to this point, no one has done anything like we're attempting to do here. That is, count and identify the hawks during migration," said Watts.

"Through knowing about this phenomenon, this migration route, we can then try to avoid having adverse effects on their migration patterns and their breeding," he said.

So, five days a week, armed with binoculars, Watts scans the sky for hawks, eagles, turkey vultures and other raptors. Then he uploads the counts to the Hawk Watch website for researchers and members of the public to use.

Brigitte Noël, an avid birder from Cambridge Narrows, is one of the volunteers helping Watts.

"If you're like me, you're gonna see a golden eagle or if you're lucky, a bald eagle, and you're gonna get all excited. So, all your problems are gone," said Noël.

"Therapy time! This is why I'm doing it. You don't think about anything else …I love it."

David Coon, executive director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, is also excited about the project.

He worries many birds of prey are on the decline in New Brunswick and having a baseline count could help

"We want to have some sense of what's happening with hawks and raptors in New Brunswick," he said.

"Particularly, we're interested in those that rely on old growth forest because we know that is declining in New Brunswick and that concerns us."

The Hawk Watch project, funded by the Wildlife Trust Fund, is expected to wrap up in November, when the birds fly south.