Special Post - My Raptor Mentor

I had to post this article,which appeared on Nov 12th in The London Free Press about Hawk Cliff and a man near and dear to me,my "raptor mentor" Colin Horstead.
While other watchers at High Park helped me along,during my initial forray into raptor watching,Colin "took me under his wing" as it were. He saw how keen I was and nutured it. He would take me aside and tell me what to look for and why a bird was what it was. The only reward he asked for was that I pass it on. He often jokes,"Ive taught you everything you know(dramatic pause)but not everything I know.",in his good natured manor. He took me out winters and we did road trips,so my crash course in raptor identification could continue even in off season. He took me to Beamer Memorial Park Hawk Watch(Niagara Pennisula Raptor Watch) several times each spring early on so Id keep learning. He took me to Hawk Cliff,by which time I was fairly skilled at identification and spotting. I owe Colin a great deal. Not only did he help me to be very proficient at raptor ID,but he became and remains a very valued and even cherish friend. Because of him I not only started the watch at Rosetta,but have met so many wonderful friends. Ive tried to honour the committment to Colin to "pay it forward",since then by teaching all I am able to the many new raptor watchers at Rosetta. Id like to think what he taught me is being passed on in a way he'd be proud of or at least satisfied with.

From The London Free Press
These hawks are no ‘dicky birds’

By PAUL NICHOLSON, Special to QMI Agency

Dave Brown's modest reference to the skilled and loyal corps of volunteer hawkwatchers at Hawk Cliff on Lake Erie east of Port Stanley is "the usual suspects."They scour the sky rain or shine, seven days a week, logging every raptor sighting from late August to November. Brown, who is based in Mitchell, co-ordinates schedules and publishes the detailed daily findings on the organization's website (search "Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch.") The Hawk Cliff Hawkwatch is one of about six Ontario hawkwatch sites west of Toronto and is one of about 200 sites in North America that are linked to the Hawk Migration Association of North America. The common goals are to conserve, study and appreciate raptors such as hawks and eagles.
The information gathering is a form of "citizen science" and takes advantage of observers such as Tom Bolohan, Ches Caister and Ronnie Goodhand to create a continentwide understanding of the status of raptor populations.An example of a population shift would be the recovery of bald eagles and peregrine falcons in Ontario after DDT was banned in the 1970s. As an umbrella organization, the Hawk Migration Association establishes standard methodologies for counts and is a focal point for research. Scientists also liaise directly with the Hawk Cliff crew, which has local data going back to 1974.
Jim Dunn was relied on to lead the daily count from late August, when this fall's migration started. From early September to early November, Colin Horstead was the lead counter. For the past five years, Horstead has been a lead counter with the Hawkwatch. He is a Torontonian, but he checks into the Kettle Creek Inn in Port Stanley for two months each fall.Asked about the roots of his interest in hawks, Horstead recently explained "Way, way back I was fishing on the Pickerel River. This would have been in the mid-1950s. There were ospreys around, but I didn't know what they were so I got my first bird book and found out." He has never looked back. "I got into the migration after I retired in 1992."
Perhaps because of those first osprey sightings, he does still focus on birds of prey. "I like the raptors. I just like to specialize. It's the type of person I am. I call everything else a 'dicky bird,' but I'm just joking." He confesses an admiration for those birders who are good at non-raptors. Mary Carnahan is one of the hawkwatchers who is relied on to report sightings of non-raptor species.
The balance of the migration that wraps up November 30 will be charted by Brown and the London-area watchers.Regarding this year's fall migration, Brown remarked "It's been an excellent season for birds, but a rotten season for weather." Said Horstead, "This year's been tough because of threatening rain," but tough or not, Horstead will return: "I'll be back next year. It's a passion." This sentiment reflects the remarkable commitment of all "the usual suspects."
Hawk Cliff sightings The golden eagles were again particularly good last Saturday. Some were soaring very high and others, including juveniles and adults, were lower and offered excellent views. More than 600 red-tailed hawks were also spotted, along with counts of red-shouldered and rough-legged hawks, turkey vultures, and other raptors. Great V's of honking tundra swans flew over periodically. They looked spectacular in the sun against the deep blue sky. Other sightings in the woods and thickets included yellow-rumped warblers, fox sparrows, pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, a Northern shrike, cedar waxwings, Eastern bluebirds, rusty blackbirds and a purple finch.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic article on Colin. Rosetta McClain Raptor Watch is lucky to have Colin attend our site in August. Ann Brokelman

Daniel said...

Nicely written and a cherished memory.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article on Colin and on the rest of the gang at Hawk Cliff. We could not have a better friend than Colin.

As I've told Colin many times in the past, I knew absolutely nothing about hawks and/or hawkwatching before I met Frank 4 years ago. Now this year I'm conducting the Watch (with the help of many others of course!) So when it comes to 'paying it forward' Frank, you've done an incredible job with me! I thank you once again.


Lee said...

Great article about Colin!