Rhath of the raptors

FHS Naturalist Club participates in raptor observation


Seniors Breanna Leasure and Brianna McKee, two attendees of the Raptorthon, pose for a photo.

Lexi Halvin, Sports Editor

Raptors, or birds of prey, have sparked the interest of Freedom’s Naturalist Club over the past school year. With this interest at hand, the Naturalist Club decided to participate in “Raptorthon.” This event was held at Shawnee Lake for a week. Here, participants counted the number of raptors they observed over the days that they were there. The data collected was submitted to Hawk Migration Association of North American (HMANA).

Leading up to the event, over the second week of April, teachers were able to pay five dollars to dress down everyday for that whole week. Students were also encouraged to participate by dressing up as Dr. Brian Wargo, Naturalist Club sponsor, on April 7 for one dollar. Although there was no end goal monetarily, all donations went to help fund the HMANA.

“There is no end goal for money because we are volunteering our time to this cause. Any money raised goes towards migratory research,” senior Brianna McKee stated.

Wargo, the Naturalist Club founder and a board member for the HMANA, introduced the idea of Raptorthon to members of the Naturalist Club. Seniors McKee, Peyton Zankel, Kayla Carpenter and Breanna Leasure, along with Wargo, went out to Shawnee Lake and camped out overnight on April 15.

McKee wrote about the experience of Raptorthon in a journal.

“On Friday, April 14, Breanna Leasure and I left Pittsburgh around 1:00 and made it to Somerset around 3:30. We drove up the mountain to the Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society hawkwatch to visit before Saturday and get adjusted. Just as we arrived, we heard and saw a raven.

“The view from the edge of the cliff was absolutely amazing. We had a view of about 30 kilometers and pictures do not do it justice. We left the hawkwatch around 5:00 and made our way back to Shawnee Lake Campground and we set up our tents.

“We then took Wargo’s Kayak to the lake and took it out, where we saw a Belted Kingfisher, Ring-necked Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, Pied-Billed Grebes, Horned Grebes, [and] Double-crested Cormorants. The most exciting experience on the lake was getting to see a Bald Eagle attack an Osprey to get its fish. The Bald Eagle then took the fish to a nearby tree and ate.

“We eventually went back to the camp, ate dinner, made s’mores and slept. In the morning, we drove back up to the hawkwatch and began counting for the Raptorthon. The highest number of Raptors was Broad-winged Hawks. We also counted Red-tailed Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Sharpshinned Hawks, an Osprey, a Black Vulture and a Golden Eagle. Other than raptors, we saw a Pine Warbler, a Pileated Woodpecker, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Tree Swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, Northern Flickers and Eastern Bluebirds in their nesting box.”

As the weekend came to an end, the members returned back to Freedom. The data that was collected was given to the HMANA. The data will be used to further understand raptors along with their habits and declining population.