It was a dark and stormy night....and morning....and well, much of the weekend, actually. Saturday was nice, but a tornado warning on Thursday evening just added to the stormy pattern I'm seeing right now.
The upside is that the weather has been much cooler than is typical for August, which is fine with me, except that over the years I've learned that a cool August usually means a hot September, and I can do without that during hawkwatching season. It's not just because I sunburn easily, either. Hot or warmer than average Sepember weather means this area doesn't get the northwest winds that brings fall hawks. They end up flying elsewhere or fly in a broad front so no one sees many hawks. Been there, done that, was hoping this year wouldn't be a repeat.
And speaking of hawkwatches, the first hawkwatches are already starting their fall seasons. Hawk Mountain, Waggoner's Gap, Second Mountain, Raccoon Ridge, Johnson City and Corpus Christi are already counting a few hawks. August hawkwatching can have its own rewards. It's a good time to get the eyes "dialed in" and ready for those fast and furious days of September. If you go to a popular hawkwatch, not many tourists will show up yet, so the hours spent on the hawkwatch are quiet and enjoyable. August is also a good time to catch up on the lives of the few fellow hawkwatchers who will be on the mountain with you, so you won't be chatting about Johnny's graduation and miss something good flying by. All that will done with by the time September rolls around.
Waggoner's Gap had a good early season day on Saturday, with 33 Broad-winged Hawks and 3 Bald Eagles among the 51 birds seen that day. Many sites won't start until August 15 and the rest won't start until September 1.
Broad-winged Hawks will peak in this area around September 17-18, most likely. During a good flight, sites will see thousands of these birds. If you live near a Great Lakes site, you may well see tens of thousands of these small hawks. The third week of October is a good time to see the biggest variety of species, with 14 species of hawks possible. In this area I usually figure on October 20-21 as being a great time for that. It's not too early to plan a trip to your nearest hawkwatch. Before the season gets going full bore, I'll give you a few tips on what to take with your for a day at your local hawkwatch.