Bird watchers, curious nature lovers converge at Festival of Hawks



By Ron Giofu


The first weekend of the 2018 Festival of Hawks is in the books and it brought bird watchers and nature lovers from around the area and some from the United States.

Presented last Saturday and Sunday at Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the hawk tower and the area that surrounds it was busy with bird watchers looking out for the various hawks and other birds that flew overhead with hummingbird banding, owl holding, photography lessons, seminars and other nature-themed activities keeping people busy also.

The Festival of Hawks is a co-production of the Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA) and the Holiday Beach Migration Observatory (HBMO).

Rachel D’Eon and Melissa
Debevc came in from Chatham do do some bird watching at last weekend’s Festival of Hawks. The event continues this weekend.

Nate Soucie with Kingsport Environmental Falconry said response was “fantastic.” He noted Saturday morning was a bit slower due to fog that was in the area but things picked up once that cleared.

“It’s been a good turnout,” said Soucie last Saturday afternoon. “Now that the sun’s out, more and more people are coming out.”

Ericka Greenham brought her young son Grady on the hawk tower with Ericka noting the event was recommended to the family by her husband’s former grad student that now works for ERCA.

“This is our first time,” she said. “It’s great. We are really enjoying it.”

Rachel D’Eon and Melissa Debevc from Chatham came down to the event, noting they don’t come to the Festival of Hawks every year. They noted they often bird watch at the Pinery or Rondeau Provincial Park but enjoy the Festival of Hawks when they do come.

Bob Hall-Brooks shows a magnolia warbler during one of his talks last Saturday at the Festival of Hawks.

“It’s the only place where you can see a lot of raptors congregate at the same time,” said Debevc. “The bonus about here is not just the hawks but everything else too.”

D’Eon added that Holiday Beach is “a well-rounded place to bird.”

Bob Hall-Brooks, a hummingbird bander with HBMO, also said early Saturday fog impacted the event but that things got better when the sun came out. He indicated a number of hawks went over, adding that when he was at Holiday Beach Friday there were monarch butterflies and broad winged hawks that joined the sharp shinned and red-tailed hawks.

Hall-Brooks said the Festival of Hawks is a great opportunity to share their passion with other birders and the general public and show people birds they would normally not get to see.

“People seem to be interested. That’s always exciting,” said Hall-Brooks. “It’s so nice to place a bird in a kid’s hand. It’s nice to show them birds they wouldn’t otherwise see.”

Ericka Greenham and her son Grady take a look off of the hawk tower at Holiday Beach Conservation Area during the Festival of Hawks Sept. 15.

The Festival of Hawks continues this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can also enjoy lunch provided by the Essex County Field Naturalists’ Blue Kestrel Café or HBMO’s BBQ Booth.

All programs are free with the festival admission fee of $15 per vehicle. The final list of programs is available at

The best raptor viewing time is from 9 a.m. until 12 noon when the hawks fly low. The Holiday Beach Conservation Area is located on County Road 50, on Lake Erie near Malden Centre.



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