Hawkwatcher Bios

Our Intrepid Observers

Community Effort

The observation data at Beamer would not be possible without the considerable effort put forward by countless volunteers. The following are a sampling of bios from the innumerable volunteers who have helped tally birds at Beamer each spring.

Bouwe Bergsma

Bouwe’s interest was sparked in 1984 by his music teacher who was a hawk-watcher, and his first count year was 1987. His self-employment enabled him to count, but the number of days varied. Bald Eagle sightings were rare when he started, and he still finds identifying raptors exciting, as was seeing his first Black Vulture. He remembers when a plastic owl was placed in a hickory tree north of the viewing area to attract Red-shouldered Hawks and other raptors. He recommends hawk-watching as a hobby, and he shows that it can last a lifetime!

Sandy Darling

Sandy first heard about the hawk-watch when he served on a committee in 1989 with Dave Copeland, the person who identified Beamer as a good site to count raptors. He and his wife, Jeni, used to attend sporadically in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2004, they lived in Egypt and at least twice per year went to see and count raptors on the Red Sea coast, where 8,000 birds and fifteen species per day was fairly common. He started counting at Beamer in 2008, and has maintained his interest in international birding. World-wide he has seen over 230 diurnal raptor species, but still finds counting one day per week at Beamer a good way to see both raptors and non-raptor species returning each spring.

Keith Dieroff

Keith started visiting Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in the early 1990s while in university. Bitten by the birding bug as a teenager, Keith learned about the hawkwatch from the good old Hamilton Naturalists’ Club ‘birding hotline’. After joining the committee a few years later, he held a number of positions on the executive, including Director, Newsletter Editor, Treasurer and President. While working in Toronto and raising a family, he took a break from active involvement but has returned for his second term as president. A passionate birder, Keith has always had a soft spot for raptors, whether it’s a Sharp-shinned Hawk at the backyard feeder or a Bald Eagle migrating over the treetops at Beamer, it never gets old! A bad day at the hawkwatch is always better than a good day at work. Be sure to say hello if you catch up with Keith on the tower at Beamer.

Kevin Empey

Kevin has been birdwatching casually for 30 years, and was always fascinated by the large movement of hawks.  His retirement and a move to Dundas have given him more time for birdwatching and made the commute to Grimsby manageable.  He decided to participate more in volunteer research projects like the hawk-watch both to continue his learning and contribute.  He started in 2022 and aims to get up to about 8 days each year.  He enjoys the challenge of counting at Beamer – catching what is coming at us at different speeds is a constant learning experience and a fun challenge.

Chris Escott

Chris started visiting Beamer as a birder, simply to enjoy the spectacle of migrating raptors that seemingly appear out of nowhere, sometimes soaring in lazy loops as they ride the updrafts to gain altitude and sometimes just sailing by on their way. He soon recognized that the challenge of spotting new arrivals and identifying them as they passed by, whether close in at eye level or so high as to be mere specks, was something he enjoyed greatly. So, despite living in Toronto, Chris started as an Official Counter at Beamer in 1989. His full-time job limited him for years to counting only on weekends, but he retired recently and can now be seen atop the tower half a dozen times each Spring, often in the cold and windy days of early March. A good flight is always a thrill but, no matter the number of raptors, Chris enjoys spending the day on the tower keeping notes on every bird that passes by overhead or is seen or heard in the surrounding woods. Counting has also allowed him to meet other hawkwatchers and some of these kindred spirits have become lifelong friends. The birding, and the camaraderie, have definitely been worth it!

Lyn Folkes

Lyn has a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Waterloo, and has been birding for over 25 years. A long-time member of the Hamilton Naturalists’ Club, she prefers collecting data for scientific purposes, such as being a Principal Atlasser for the third Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas and, for 8 years, a participant in the Longwatch, which gathers migratory bird data on Royal Botanical Gardens’ natural lands in Hamilton/Burlington. In 2018, she began assisting on the NPH tower in Grimsby to improve her raptor ID skills. Lyn is most grateful for the friendly raptor experts who have freely shared their knowledge, and is now a spotter or counter during the cooler days of March. From the entertaining acrobatics of croaking ravens, to handsome Rough-legged Hawks flying ‘straight down the pipe’ or falcons zooming by in stealth mode, Lyn always enjoys the nature offered by a day of hawk watching.

Tim Foran

Tim began counting hawks in the early 2000’s. Years earlier, his brother recommended a hike at Beamer Memorial Conservation Area near Grimsby, coincidently during the spring Hawk Watch. Tim became entranced by the sight of magnificent beasts flying over the park that very day. The beauty never fades, so that he finds it a most relaxing experience. He says, “By counting we are contributing to the understanding and preservation of birds of prey.” He also believes that the Niagara Peninsula Hawk Watch has one of the best welcoming and training programs in Ontario for anyone who might like to take part or just go and watch hawks, falcons and eagles as they pass by on their northward journey to make a summer home and raise their young.

Catherine Manschot

Catherine’s interest in hawks developed while working for Halton Regional Conservation Authority as a volunteer and guide for school groups visiting the Raptor Centre at Mountsberg Conservation Area. In 2019, Catherine began attending the hawk-watch at Beamer and was captivated by raptors in flight. To prepare for becoming a counter, she was paired with an experienced counter in the NPH mentorship program, and started counting the following year. She joined the NPH Executive Committee and, as a former teacher, she was happy to take on administration and education. To prepare hawk enthusiasts for the spring migration, she offers an Online Raptor Identification Course each winter. Catherine loves to count hawks at Beamer and to share the joy of identifying these birds with others.

Kat Stoltz

Kat is a lifelong birder but a recent convert to raptors.  The journey began shortly before the pandemic. She is grateful to the many experienced counters who gave generously of their time and knowledge during that challenging period.  She also lives on the spring flight path – yes, that was a factor in purchasing the house – and will happily sit for hours in the driveway scanning the spring skies.  Kat has travelled extensively on birding trips, and has a soft spot for antbirds of Central and South America.  She is a soon-to-be retired Neurologist, who looks forward to devoting more time to hawk-counting and learning how to use her camera off auto-focus mode.

Tom Thomas

Tom developed a keen interest in nature during rambles as a boy among the hills of south Wales, where he grew up, but did not take up birding seriously until later in life.  His birding passions are warblers and raptors, which he started watching at Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in the early 2000s. He started counting for NPH in 2002, and is a frequent and friendly person on the tower.  For many years he organized the NPH Open House, the Hamilton Christmas Bird Count, and led trips for the Ontario Field Ornithologists.  He is a most talented photographer and his photos have appeared in publications like the Hawkwatch newsletter, on educational display boards in parks and natural areas, and in the training webinar delivered by Catherine Manschot for NPH.