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Group celebrates 30 years of tracking, protecting hawks and falcons

<i>KETV</i><br/>Hitchcock Hawkwatch in Honey Creek
Hitchcock Hawkwatch in Honey Creek

By Josh Gear

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    HONEY CREEK, Iowa (KETV) — Every year, thousands of birds like hawks and falcons make their way south through the area, some traveling as far as South America. For three decades, a team of mostly volunteers in Iowa has tracked those travels in an effort to protect the environment.

“This is a female Cooper’s hawk, unfortunately she lost a feather,” one expert told the group looking on at Hitchcock Nature Center Sunday. “She’s bitey, she’s bitten me twice today.” It’s one-on-one experiences like this that volunteers have shared for decades.

“The group actually started 30 years ago, we’re celebrating that today,” Bob Wells said. Hitchcock Hawkwatch started in 1991, keeping tabs on migrating raptors that pass through the area. From a 65’ tower in Honey Creek, Iowa, staff and volunteers set their eyes to the skies, tracking the birds while tallying the totals and trends. They share that data with a nationwide network of researchers.

Sunday’s celebration brought dozens to the refuge, learning about the animals and their role in the environment.

“Migrating raptors are a benchmark of the health of an ecosystem,“ Wells said. “If they start to disappear, you really have to worry about losing a key element in the entire conservation world.”

Volunteers said they hope events like this encourage the next generation of waters and counters to take up the mission of spotting the soaring birds for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more about the Hitchcock Hawkwatch organization and its efforts, visit the Pottawattamie County Conservation website.

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