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Greetings Friends of GGRO, 

Here is your second issue of GGRO Quarterly, our new and improved quarterly newsletter for GGRO volunteers, partners, and friends! We have fundamentally changed our newsletter strategy—the Raptor Passage is ONLY for active volunteers and is focused on their training and support. The GGRO Quarterly is to keep our wider, valued community informed, including past volunteers and interns, donors, park and academic colleagues, and many other friends. 

We apologize for the delay in getting this second issue to you. We have been working tirelessly to navigate the migration in a COVID-era world, and have been waiting to share updates until they have been finalized with our volunteers and partners. Moving forward, we hope to share the Quarterly newsletter with you every 3 months, in February, May, August, and November.

We hope you enjoy the content and format of the new newsletter. Your feedback is welcome! Please send comments to

Thank you for your support!


Issue 2; September 2020

GGRO is a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in cooperation with the National Park Service. 

Visit Hawk Hill to See the Migration!

Partial Closures in Effect

Learn More About Hawk Hill Partial Closures

GGRO Needs Your Help!

The fiscal and safety impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have challenged us to re-strategize the GGRO’s long-term migration study, not just for 2020, but for 2021 and beyond. The future level of GGRO’s operations is uncertain. In order to continue our mission—to benefit not only California raptor populations, but to inform the public about climate change and the health of our planet as a whole—we are seeking your continued critical support. We hope to modify and revitalize the way we do our work so that we can continue to monitor California’s birds of prey in a post-COVID-19 world, while we also broaden the impact of our community science program. 

Our goal is to raise $100,000 for GGRO, to sustain our work through this season and into next, until the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy recuperates from the organizational impacts of COVID-19. As the longest-running program of the Parks Conservancy, GGRO serves as a model for other community science programs around the world. And migration data collected by GGRO volunteers provides critical insights into raptor health and population trends, as well as large-scale environmental changes like climate change and global warming. With your continued partnership, we can ensure that this work persists.

Help us Reach our $100,000 Goal

2020 Hawkwatch Program Update

GGRO staff and our Park colleagues have been working hard to determine how to best get ready for a COVID-safe 2020 raptor migration season. We have focused our energies on making a COVID-safe hawk count happen, but this count will not be anything like we have seen before. Click here to learn more. 

2020 Banding Program Suspended

It is with great sadness we announce that the GGRO banding program has been suspended for 2020. This decision was made at different levels, from both our Parks Conservancy and NPS teams. Click here to learn more. 

Sausalito to Boise: One Redtail's Journey

This Red-Tailed Hawk (RTHA) was one of approximately 180 individuals to receive a color band at GGRO in the fall of 2019. On August 28, 2019, two GGRO banders, Paula (an intern from 2019) and John (a bander for 20+ years), trapped and banded this juvenile, 980 g, RTHA. We received news last week that this bird was recaptured at a sister station, Intermountain Bird Observatory (IBO), in Idaho, on September 11th. It weighed 1011 g when it was recaptured, and we are happy to see it doing well and surviving! It is interesting to see that it made its way to Idaho, and we all wonder why it ended up there...Fires? Smoke? Click here to see the full post, more pictures, and learn more about color banding at GGRO!

New Broad-winged Hawk Publication!

GGRO's newest publication on Fall migration of radio-tagged Broad-winged Hawks in California was just published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology! Seabird biologist and former GGRO volunteer Phil Capitolo examines movements of five juvenile Broad-winged Hawks radio-tracked by GGRO.

Click here to download the PDF.

Raptors and Smoke

"As we are an organization devoted to raptor migration monitoring, one big question circled us throughout these hazy weeks: How do raptors respond to fire smoke?"

After a 2018 season of smoke and haze, GGRO Director Allen Fish explored impacts of air pollution on birds in his 2019 article for Pacific Raptor 40. As first responders battle wildfires across the state, we again wonder what effect these extreme climate phenomenon will have on raptor health and movement. 

Read the Full Article

Band Recovery Spotlight

Recovery # 186, Band Number 1387-78218
Many a GGRO bander is mourning the loss of the 2020 season. Missing the opportunity to collect important data on raptor populations, gather our tight knit community for strange annual rituals, and share a blind with glorious wild raptors, hurts a lot. Our dedicated team of volunteers can, however, take pride in the fact that our previously banded hawks will surely continue to engage and inspire humans up and down the West Coast.

One group of fellow nature-allies with which the GGRO enjoys a mutually beneficial symbiosis is the vast network of wildlife rehabilitation centers around the country. Without their diligent work, the GGRO would have recorded a fraction of the band recoveries we have accumulated over the years. One of many examples of their contributions came by way of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk banded by GGRO volunteers in 1994. Shortly after getting its band, this Redtail was seen making a desperate attempt to take a large grey goose. The goose had reportedly gained the upper hand when a volunteer from the Lindsay Wildlife Museum captured the Redtail and took it in for care. While the hawk was already too emaciated to make a full recovery, the finder was delighted to learn about the practice of hawk banding, and described the encounter as a “fun experience”. It is heartwarming to know that we at GGRO are just one piece (essential though we may feel) of a huge network of humans working to make life better for the wild animals trying to make a living in our midst.

- Eric Lynch, GGRO Banding Volunteer


Zoom with GGRO Director Allen Fish!

Red Tales, Hawkish Behaviors, and Migratory Stories: Revelations from GGRO’s First 35 Years
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
7-8:30 PM

Join Marin Audubon Society (MAS) for an entertaining discussion of the GGRO, Migratory Story, and all things raptor, as GGRO Director Allen Fish delves into the best stories from Hawk Hill, and the unique meaning of 2020 for long-term bird monitoring. This program is part of MAS's online birding series. Click the link in title to pre-register through Zoom. 

Virtual Events & Learning Opportunities

9/26: Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza
9/30-10/14: Northeastern Hawk Identification Workshop
10/15-10/19: Virtual 5th Hawai’i Island Festival Of Birds
11/8-11/14: The Arctic Refuge Virtual Bird Fest
How to Draw Birds with John Muir Laws
Be a Better Birder 1: Size & Shape

Threatened & Endangered Raptors Quiz

Which raptor is listed on both the federal and state endangered species list?
Which owls are considered species of concern in California?
Take the quiz now to test your knowledge!

Mid-Summer Broad-winged Hawk Sighting in the South Bay

On June 29, while waiting for the coffee to drip I opened an email from hawkwatch dayleader Keith Gress with this wonderful photo attached. With my glass-less eyes and caffeine-distressed mind I zoomed my phone to the max and wanted to address the email's title: Possible BWHA (Broad-winged Hawk). Long term hawkwatcher Alane Gray knew she had an interesting find when she photographed the buteo a day or two earlier near Pescadaro. Several experts were contacted and many thanks to Brian Sullivan for his identification of Broad-winged Hawk. Grab Jerry Liguori and Brian’s Raptor ID app and purchase their book, The Crossley ID Guide: Raptors, to explore their amazing photo study quizzes and learn how the Broad-winged Hawk pictured in Alane’s photo differs from the Gray Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Prairie Falcon, and other raptors with which her photo was confused.

- Step Wilson, GGRO Hawkwatch Manager

In Memory of Russ DeLong
The GGRO community lost its longest-duration volunteer—banding leader and teacher extraordinaire Russ DeLong—who died of cancer Saturday September 19th. Russ was a larger-than-life aficionado of birds of prey. He forged and shaped many of the banding program’s best traditions, having started in 1983, the first year that GGNRA ecologist Judd Howell invited community volunteers to the Park to band raptors. For 37 years, Russ banded at least once a week each autumn, contributing hugely to the GGRO’s database of more than 45,000 raptors banded. Russ trained dozens of volunteers and interns in the fine art of trapping, handling, and banding hawks, and was famous for underscoring the learning process with memorable first-hand stories. Russ epitomized commitment to raptors and to community, and we were fortunate that he chose to spend so much of his life with the GGRO.

Become a Member of the Parks Conservancy

GGRO is a program of the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Parks Conservancy is the nonprofit membership organization created to preserve the Golden Gate National Parks, enhance the experiences of park visitors, and build a community dedicated to conserving the parks for the future.
Join Now
Photo Captions and Credits (top to bottom)
2019 GGRO Intern Paula with Red-tailed Hawk K23 (John Ungar/GGRO Volunteer)
Red-tailed Hawk K23 recaptured a year later at IBO (Caleb Hansen/IBO)
Broad-winged Hawk Map (Zac Stanley/Parks Conservancy)
White-tailed Kite with prey against a glowing smokey sky—August 2020 (Ryan Bourbour/GGRO Volunteer)
GGRO Director Allen Fish (Allen Fish/GGRO)
California Condor (Natasha Lekach/GGRO Volunteer)
Juvenile Broad-winged Hawk (Alane Gray/GGRO Volunteer)
GGRO bander Russ DeLong at Rodeo Beach (GGRO)
GGRO bander Russ DeLong with an adult Red-tailed Hawk (GGRO)
Hiker at Bolinas Ridge (Paul Myers/GGNPC)
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Copyright © 2020 Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, All rights reserved.

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Golden Gate Raptor Observatory
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
201 Fort Mason, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94123

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Golden Gate Raptor Observatory · 201 Fort Mason · San Francisco, CA 94123-1307 · USA

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