View from FIRE hawkwatch 
Drew Panko, Coordinator This Year's Count Yearly Trends and Seasonal Distribution for each Species Yearly Summary Weather Forcast
All Time Records Watchers and Watched 7 metropolitan area watches HMANA NEHW Hawk Watch Statistics

Outstanding 2023 Season!       How Far?
**The 2023 Count** The 2022 Season Summary! FIRE Crossword
HMANA Data Sheets:  hard copy pdf    excel spreadsheet    
 The 2022 Count     The 2020 Count     The 2021 Count

Drew's Weather Links

The Outstanding 2023 Season
The Year of the OSPREY! and The Year of the BALD EAGLE!  Drew summarizes the 2023 season at our Dec 10 zoom meet.  Check out the video (hover to click on audio). 
Have you wondered how far the Lighthouse is from the watch site?  Check out the video above, or try the quiz yourself from the pdf link at How Far is It? Distances from the FIRE watch. (

2023 Season Photos by Anthony deLuca
Some great views of our favorite species!  Try this one at full screen.

The 2023 Season Has Begun!
An adult Bald Eagle visits FIRE.  A good beginning.

The 2022 Season Summary
Drew summarizes the 2022 season at our Dec 11 zoom meet.  How did our falcons do?  Check out the video.  Then try our new Fire Island Crossword Puzzle.

The 2022 Season
The 2022 Season is in full swing, with more than 1000 hawks counted so far (by 9/27).  FIRE offers fun in all directions, even on SW winds days. 
Norther Harrier hunts along the primary dune on Sep 27, examining all grass tufts carefully while flying into 15 mph winds from the WSW.  Watch as it finds some prey, pounces five times, swings out and away, and then returns!  (Use full screen to feel like you are there.)/span>

A surprise:  A Humpback Whale off shore on Sep 20, 2022.

The 2021 Season
Our dependable "Merlin Tree" along the north shore had fallen, so we enjoyed our 2021 Merlins as they sat on the roof of the gazebo or grabbed lunch from the shrubs.
Merlin on Roof Merlin gets lunch in the shrubs
And we enjoyed our 2021 Kestrels as they hunted from the Halloween Tree and hovered over the primary dunes.

The 2020 Season Summary
Drew summarizes the 2020 season at our first ever zoom luncheon.  COVID kept us at home, so we met over zoom to see each other and enjoy memories of a good season.  Dec 2020.

The 2019 Season - Filled with Action!
A Merlin appears to be cleaning his feet behind the platform, Sep 17 2019.  We counted 54 that day.  video direct  
An Osprey flies directly overhead - too close to easily track with the camera.  Can you  grab the fish?.  Aug 2019   video direct
The 2019 FIRE season has begun!   Aug 24 brought a cold front with North winds in the morning.  So, hawk watchers migrated to FIRE to see just what the winds would bring.  We counted 13 Osprey, and our first Kestrel, Merlin, and Harrier. 

Our season officially begins in September. Let Drew know when you can help.

The 2018 Season Summary
Drew summarizes the 2018 season for everyone at the FIRE luncheon,  Dec 2018.
The 2018 Luncheon
Our wonderful watchers celebrate the 2018 season at FIRE, filled with lots of fun for all!  Dec 2018.

The 2018 Season Begins
 locals Osprey on nest  
Local Osprey on nest Entertained by Osprey Action in August and September  
The 2018 FIRE season has begun!                    Sep 8, 2018

As usual some of us have jumped the gun and put in some 29 hours on 8 diffeent days, starting with a record early start by Bob Grover on 8/10.  We have a total of 24 hawks (16 OS, 2 AK, 1 ML, and 3 PG) as well as severral pods of dolphins and today 3 Humpback whales - thanks to Jack and Tony.  Ken, Steve, Trudy, Anthony and I also covered some early dates.

This year we can reasonably expect to count our 1000th Cooper's Hawk (wee need only 22).  And our 43000th Merlin (we need only 61).

Dedication for Bobby Kurtz
We will be dedicating a plaque for Bob Kurtz on Sunday September 23 at 11:00 am - with a backup day in casse of rain on Saurday Oct 6.

I hope that all of you will get a chance to visit the watch and enjoy the marvelous spectacle of migration taking place on Fire Island this fall.

Scenes and Summary of the 2017 Season
Slide Show 1 2017 Watchers at Luncheon 2017 Slide Show 3 2017 I to Z
 Click on pictures to see videos of scenes from FIRE
The 2017 FIRE Season Begins  Sep 2
Welcome to the Fire Island Hawk Watch!

Our 35th year of everyday coverage is set to begin on Sep 10!

Some of our watchers will likely be jumping the gun, and covering a few days before then, when winds are promising.  If you stop down any time be sure to send me the date, hawks seen, and time spent.

I will be calling watchers to line up counters for the weekends.  Weekend days are the most difficult to get covered.  If you can cover a weekend day, please let me know.
Drew at the FIRE Hawk Watch
Due to some vandalism during the off season, the storage bin is not available.   Until it is repaired we will need to adapt in creative ways.  Look for an email with updates.

Keep watching, counting, and reporting!  We will be updating the website over the next two weeks, so check regularly for more info.

What will this year bring?  Who knows?  But the cold fronts seem to be coming fast and furious during the last couple of weeks and should bring good numbers of hawks in early September, if it continues.

See you down at the beach!


The 2016 Count

The 2016 Migration Season - our 35th Year of Watching at FIRE
Headlines for 2016:
  • Record High Coverage - 75 Days!
  • First 2 Black Vultures seen at the watch
  • New Record Bald Eagle count - 10!
  • New Rcord Red-tailed Hawk count - 53rd Lowest
  • Lowest Ever Kestrel Count - 300 (really concerning)
  • 3rd Lowest Sharp-shinned Count - 195 (concerning as well)
  • 3rd Highest Cooper's Hawk Count - 55
  • Ospreys, Harriers, Merlins, and Peregrines Much Below Average (hopefully only a weather effect)
  • Observers distracted by assorted marine mammals!  (a great distraction!)
Marine Mammals:

whales seen from the Fire Island Hawk Watcch


What could have caused the increase in marine mammals in 2016?

First of all, this is not just a 2016 phenomenon. 

First it was the Seals showing up on Jones Beach 20(?) years ago.  Then, perhaps 10 years ago dolphins off Fire Island and finally whales for the last 2 or 3 years.

It might be because of an increase in marine mammals in the Western North Atlantic.

It might be because of a change in the fish concentration, either fewer on the previous marine mammal feeding grounds or an increase in fish in the near-shore areas off Fire Island or both.

It might be because of a change in near shore water temperatures.

It might be because of a whole host of other possibilities that I am too ignorant to think of.

In any case this is what the Sea Surface Temperature looked like in Nov 2016.

ocean temperatures in Nov 2016

This is what it looks like for September 2, 2017:

Ocean Temperatures SEP 2017

Osprey - Recovering from DDT?

Osprey trend at Fire Island

At Fire Island we have seen a modest increase in Osprey over the years.

Comparison of Osprey at Fire Island and Lighthouse Point

If we compare LH with FI we find that there is no correlation between the sites (R2 = 0.00).  (If there were strong correspondence between the sites R2 = 1.00, if they were anti correlated (good years at FI occurred when bad years at LH occurred) then R2 would also be = 1.00.)

Osprey Trends at Metropolitan Hawk Watches as a table of z scores

(FI – Fire Island. LH – Lighthouse Point. LH* - Lighthouse Point but only on the days that LI and FI both had coverage, QR – Quaker Ridge, HM – Hook Mountain, MP – Mount Peter, MC – Mountclair, CM – Cape May, HwkMtn – Hawk Mountain)  In this table the dark tan boxes (with large negative values) are low years and dark green boxes (with large positive values) are high years.


Fire Island is the only watch that shows a clear increase in the number of green boxes in recent years.  (Cape May shows some signs as well, but less so).  So, in our region only FI shows an increasing trend in OS numbers with LH, MP, MC & Hawk Mtn showing a decrease.  This is certainly NOT what we would expect if OS populations were recovering from DDT poisoning!

So what kind of sense can we make of this.  Waaay back, in the first year of the watch, we learned 2 important lessons.  One, that although NW winds are the best for observing hawks migrating, too much of a good thing will destroy the flight.  The sense we made of this is that the hawks didn’t want to be forced out over the water on N or NW winds that were too strong and either stopped migrating or remained inland.  The other observation was that OS flights were often best on NE & Easterly winds.  Now it seems clear that this is because many migrate over water and like winds that will push them to shore when they are so inclined (to rest? or feed?).

Osprey are increasing at Fire Island


Well, now with Trudy’s documentation of a decrease in Westerly winds and an increase in Easterlies in recent years we are getting more OS at FIRE.  One more effect may add to this is that at FIRE we may get a high proportion of the breeding OS from out on Shelter Island and all along the LI coast and barrier beach pushing our totals up while the inland totals decrease and  a higher proportion of all OS migrants are passing over water (and out of sight) which decreases the numbers inland.  More detailed discussion of this is available in the NEHW annual Report of the last two years including documentation of the increase in breeding OS, and some wonderful tracking data from Robert Bierregaard ( ) and Iain MacLeod ( osprey_maps.php

Scenes and Specialties of the 2016 Seasonstrong>
Slide Shows at the Dec 4 Luncheon
Slide Show 1 2016 Slide Show 2 2016 Slide Show 3 2016 O to Z
 Click on pictures to see videos of scenes from FIRE

Have you called to volunteer yet?
Mockingbird oversees datasheet
We can use the help!

The 2015 Season

Panko Press: The FIRE Season Update, Oct 3 2015


40,000 MERLINS!

Congratulations everyone! We have reached 40,000 Merlins counted at the Fire Island Hawk Watch since we first began in 1982. The 40,000th Merlin passed our watch site on Sep 20, 2015. It was the 180th Merlin to fly over that day, so it was late afternoon, with only 4 more counted that day.

184 OSPREY to Reach 10,000

We need another 184 Osprey to reach 10,000 counted since the watch began. So, keep your eyes open and be sure we do not miss any.

September 2015 Update

Ospreys - The raptor count for 2015 set records for 6 of 7 species! Unfortunately the records are RECORD LOWS!

We had only one day with a total number of hawks over 100 – on 9/20 – John Gluth and Pat & Shai counted 81 OS, 90 AKs, 184 MLs and 9 PGs! It was our only day with persistent North and Northwest winds. The regional winds on that day are shown below:

Winds on Sep 20 2015

Only OS, with a count +53% over our all-time average and +30% over their 10-year average, did well this September. Most of these may be mostly regional breeders that seem to have had a bumper crop this year, in part due to the unusually high numbers of menhaden in our area this year.

The BE count is too low to place any confidence in, but seems to be remaining approximately constant.

For the Sharpies and Kestrels this is just a continuation of the downward trend in place since 1994.

Trend for Kestrels Trend for Sharpies

For the CHs it is still too early in the year to tell for sure. But if the explanation below is correct and the winds continue as they have been, they also will be low for the year.

There is still time for the NH, ML and PG to make up ground but I doubt they will. The persistent E and NE winds seem to be carrying the hawks inland, away from the coast.

Of course, this is just speculation, but the inland watches seem to be on the way to setting record highs for MLs. And the number of BWs at these sites are unusually low, except for the westernmost (Mt Peter). So the whole migration seems to have shifted inland. Hopefully, this is not going to be more than a one year phenomenon. My hopes that El Nino would break the trend of recent years seems unfulfilled, in fact, it seems to have exacerbated the situation of recent years AND extended it to the ML & PGs as well.

We should have a better handle on what is happening when we can look at the total counts for the entire year in the whole region. But one very suggestive indication on what is happening to the hawks comes from what happened to the passerines on the night of 10/2. Below is the Doppler radar for 9pm that night. The dark blue circles are migrating passerines, the smudgy blue green is rain. The winds were strong from the Northeast, and very strong along the coast:

Bird Migration are round circular patterns

The birds are clearly taking advantage of the winds, avoiding the precipitation, and by-passing our area completely, heading directly to the Gulf Coast. I believe that the Easterly components of the wind for many days did the same thing to the migrating hawks. And so, perhaps, the low numbers of NH, ML, and PGs are just a result of this and the breeding season for them was at least near normal, even though our counts of them are at record lows.

We all owe a debt to all the hearty watchers who sat out, often on blistering hot September days, to document that indeed, there were very few hawks passing.

Stay tuned for developments – one thing we know about the natural world is that things never remain the same, and, hopefully, we’ll have a record high flight in October!


Check out this year's totals at:
and the All-Year data at:

The 2015 FIRE Season Begins
Sep 7, 2015

Osprey flies right over the platform.


Welcome to the Fire Island Hawk Watch!

It's that time of the year again.  Both the hawks & the hawkwatchers are getting itchy for the season to begin.

Regular daily coverage begins on 9/10 and will continue through 11/10.  Coverage is in place for all the weekdays, but we still need coverage for 10 Saturdays and Sundays. Please drop me a note if you can cover a weekend day!

We are approaching 2 milestones in total hawks:

Merlins - in 33 years ('82-'14) we've tallied a total of 39,682 Merlins, so it is all but certain Merlin #40,000 will be counted this year!  I sure hope to be there when Merlin #40,000 passes.

Ospreys - Our total stands at 9500, so it is possible that number 10,000 will pass this year.  On one hand, we have counted more than 500 OS in only 2 of our 33 years so reaching #10,000 it is a long shot.  On the other hand, OS seem to be doing well this year and we've already counted 27 in pre-season coverage so far this year.

I’ll add a number of pages with graphs of hawk counts from other sites – Lighthouse Point in New Haven CT, and Quaker Ridge in Greenwich CT - to the book at the watch site.  I found it very interesting to see how their yearly totals have compared with Fire Island’s over the last 30+ years.  Let me know if you see any patterns in our coastal raptor populations.

Last year's count totals at FIRE were pretty discouraging with only OS, BE, and CH doing well.  But there are very encouraging reports from early coverage at other watch sites… perhaps we’ll break a few records this year!

Check our website for a full account of last year's birds:
and for this year's birds:

See you down at the beach!


Falcons on FIRE 
Last spring Drew and Trudy reported at 2 conferences on 33 years of trends for all 3 falcon species at FIRE.  This data was collected by our wonderful volunteers. 
1.  LI Natural History Conference - Mar 21
2.  NorthEast Hawk Watch conference - Apr 4

***     FIRE Luncheon     ***
Sunday,   Dec 7 2014,  12:00-3:00pm
We celebrated our hawks!  We celebrated our Watchers!

The 2014 Season

Panko Press                                                               2014 Dailies
FIRE UPDATE - Oct 14, 2014

Osprey doing well

Count and averages to 10/14
OS All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
400 275 +45.5 321 +24.6

Osprey are the bright spot in this season’s count.  The migration was early – so  while the population of OS seems to be doing well, this year’s breeding success may have been only average.  We seem to share OS with Lighthouse Point in New Haven CT.  By share I mean that an OS that migrates past FI one year might pass further inland on another year, depending on the prevailing and previous wind/weather conditions.  So we’ll have to see how well Osprey do at other hawk watches before making any firm statements about trends. 
At FIRE, Osprey are above average.

  Osprey with Needlefish at FIREOsprey & Needlefish

Bald Eagles - increasing at FIRE?
Count and averages to 10/14
BEAll Years% diff10 Year% diff

Bald Eagles seem to pass us more or less at random in very low numbers. FIRE, therefore, is not the place to monitor their passage. All inland watches seem to be having good numbers. And with a great deal of uncertainty the overall trend at FIRE seems to be up.

Northern Harriers - cause for concern
Count and averages to 10/14
NHAll Years% diff10 Year% diff

NH numbers are VERY worrisome.  We appear to be heading for an all-time low count for them.  The past 3 years have been very low as well.  In a normal breeding year, the majority of migrants of all species are immature.  The low numbers of NH for 3 consecutive years suggests that there has been little replacement of the adults that are lost to normal attrition, and we may begin to see a decline in the breeding adults as well.  In Harriers the immatures precede the adults, so the next 2 weeks should tell the tale.  I’m afraid we will set an all-time low count of NHs this year.

Sharp-shinned Hawks - possible all-time low

Count and averages to 10/14
SS All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
62 310 -80% 129 -52%

SS hawks have been declining for at least 20 years.  In the last 20 years, only 3 years have been equal to or higher than the overall 31 year average.  The last 3 years have been below average, and each year has been lower than the last.  All indications are that this year will continue this trend and I expect we will have an all-time low count of SSs this year.  The migration pattern of Sharpies is similar to Harriers; the immatures precede the adults.  So there is some hope for a couple of good pulses later this year.  However, the poor breeding seasons in the last 3 years likely have resulted in a lower adult breeding population (as with the Harriers) and we may tally even fewer total SSs this year than the all-time low we set last year (111).

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Cooper's Hawks - above all-time, below 10-yr average
Count and averages to 10/14
CH All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
15 13.2 14% 18.4 -18%

It is too early to say how we are doing with CHs.  The majority (hopefully) are still to come.  The Coops have been increasing over the last 30 years, and this year (so far) is above that average, but not as high as in the last 10 years.  They had a bad breeding year along with the SSs & NHs.  Keep tuned to see if the breeding population is still healthy.  We also have the possibility that although their population is steady or increasing, fewer are migrating south.  Warmer climate and increasing numbers of backyard feeders could eventually have this effect.

American Kestrels - big trouble!
Count and averages to 10/14
AK All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
244 1389 -82% 689 -69%

Kestrels are in big trouble!  Based on past data, 90% of all the AKs we will count are through already!  It is a no brainer to predict that this year we’ll have a new all-time low count of AKs.  Last year we set a low of 484, and my prediction is that this year we will have a new low of 260 or less!  While I had some hope that the marked decline from 1994 had stabilized, this year refutes that and we may be documenting the disappearance of this species from the source regions we monitor.  The indications from other coastal watches seem to be the same.  Inland Kestrels are not quite as bad, but it is still a species in decline.

Merlins - down so far
Count and averages to 10/14
ML All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
519 1001 -48% 1049 -51%

Merlins are down markedly this year.  Their overall trend over the past 30 years have been steady or slightly increasing.  Last year MLs were below average, but still much higher than this year.  But at least we are already above our all time low of 491 set back in 1984.  Still this is our bread and butter bird.  For the last 30 years you could go down to FIRE, and no matter what the winds,  you would still see Merlins.  Not this year.  Could it just be a weather phenomenon, since this season has seen predominantly South winds?  Not likely in my view.  While numbers of MLs seem to be holding steady or increasing at inland sites, their numbers are so low inland it is hard to believe that all our birds are just going inland.  My take on hawk migration is that the main reason MLs are out on the barrier beaches is not wind drift, but that they come for the low vegetation habitat.  I have suspected for some time that some MLs (mostly adults) do move inland and that may be the case this year.  But that still leaves us with a low count for the immatures.  What is worrying is that breeding habitats of MLs are very different from the SSs, NHs, and AKs, so if we see them declining as well, the decline is taking place in a wide variety of habitats in N. America.  Hopefully, next year we will see a rebound of MLs.

Peregrines - slightly down, close to average; 22 on 9/29
Count and averages to 10/14
PG All Years % diff 10 Year % diff
133 134 -5% 177 -25%

PGs are down slightly over the average of the last 10 years.  This is not yet worrisome unless it continues.  Actually it opens the door for a little hope.  The majority of our PGs are strong fliers and tundra breeders as are the MLs.  If the reason for this year’s decline is that the tundra is becoming less hospitable to falcons we have a serious problem.  But significant numbers of PGs do pass inland and off shore and their decline this year may just be a weather related phenomenon.

See you at the beach!


On a barrier beach, off the south shore of Long Island, NY. We're about midway along Long Island, slightly west of due south from New Haven CT.

Driving directions: Proceed south on Robert Moses Parkway, over the bridge to Robert Moses State Park. From the water tower circle (check for PG), proceed East to parking lot #5. From the NE corner of the lot, walk east toward the lighthouse. We watch from the highest point near the road barriers.

Link up to one of the following:


Birds and Butts

Weather and Tides

Other Weather

Webmaster: Trudy Battaly or BAT'S BYTES

Updated: 12/16/23 02:44 PM

Videos!  Check out our 4  videos showing the Fire Island Hawk Watch, and Trends for Peregrines, Merlins, and Kestrels! Look for photos of you, photos of the hawks, and videos of the hawks. Also, check out the trends. Are you correct to think that the PGs are increasing? What about the Merlins? Are the Kestrels really declining? If so, why? Here we discuss the trends relative to ecology!