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Fort Smallwood Sightings

Sue Ricciardi, Compiler

Fort Smallwood Park is a nationally significant spring hawkwatch site and the most prominent along the entire East Coast. The number of raptors counted in a spring season ranges from 9,000 to 12,500, and fifteen different raptor species are usually observed.

The most common migrants are Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Broad-winged, Red-tailed, and Red-shouldered Hawks, and Ospreys, American Kestrels and Turkey Vultures. Also seen regularly are Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, Merlins, and Black Vultures. Mississippi Kite, an uncommon southern visitor, is a late spring specialty.

Mid-March through mid-May is the best time period to view the bulk of the spring migration, and southwest winds tend to be the most productive. Volunteer counters are present during most of these days. Although there is no official fall count, days in September through November with northwest winds can be fruitful for fall migrants.

In recognition of the significance of the hawkwatch, Fort Smallwood Park has been named an Important Bird Area by Audubon Maryland-DC. Migration of non-raptor species is also noteworthy, especially waterfowl, swallows, and Blue Jays and other passerines. In the neighborhood of 260 species of birds have been observed at the Park.

More detailed information on the raptor migration can be found at the online data entry Website, Click here to go directly to the Fort Smallwood section. You will see aerial and schematic maps of the Park, charts containing count highlights and migration time intervals for each raptor species, and more. You will also find links: "[Latest count data]" just above the Google Earth map, and "Raptor Population Index Project" farther down the page under Data Analysis. These will enable you to view any daily counts recorded from 1987 through the present, and species trend graphs.

For general Park information, click here.

Southeast View

Northwest View

West View

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