PREVIEW: Taking Flight

*This is a portion of an upcoming post. To read the rest of the story, pick up an issue of the paper or check it out online here when it is released on Thursday, October 3.*

Birds of a feature is not just true for avian creatures but for a group of people at Bethany. As birds head south, they gather to observe.

Bethany’s Hawkwatch has been outside Meyer Hall monitoring the migration, actively counting all that is going overhead to get a better understanding of the population and the nature of the creatures. Biology Professor Chad Heins, Bethany students and a community volunteer are working to calculate the influx, with the data being sent to national bird watching centers in the United States.

Hawkwatch started in 2003 as a personal project for Heins after noticing birds flying over Bethany. Other students and faculty started joining. This passion stems from Heins’ youth, growing up in the Milwaukee, Wis. area and watching birds migrate.

“There are all these birds migrating through the Minnesota River Valley. This is the exciting time of year. This is what I affectionately call Push Week, it is the third week of September that we have the most birds go through,” said Heins.

“All the data that we collect, at the end of the day, I take and it is put into a central clearinghouse in North America, so places like Hawk Ridge in Duluth, Minn., Hawk Mountain, which is in the Kittatinny Ridge in Pennsylvania and Cape May, N.J. These are some of the largest hawk watches in North America. There is a larger project called the Raptor Population Index, so there are scientist tapping into this data and using it since hawks are at the top of the food chain, to see what is going on in the environment,” Heins said.

Running from Aug. 15 to Dec. 15, the group has counted over 2,000 birds during fall migration. Some days are slow but others are full of activity, and through the course of the migration, the species of birds’ changes.

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