Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Hawkwatching at Waggoner's Gap

I made a trip to Waggoner’s Gap for hawkwatching over the holiday weekend. I wasn’t expecting much in the way of hawks—the season is yet early, hawk numbers over the previous week all along the east coast were still stuck in August, and the weather forecast was the same as it had been for the past week. But none of that deterred me. The time I have for sitting on top of mountains looking for hawks is far more limited than I’d like it to be, so whenever I can cobble together a few hours for my favorite activity, I go.

So imagine my surprise when the hawkwatching was actually quite good. Broadwings, Sharpies, Coops, RT’s, a few k-birds, bald eagles and Ospreys, even a harrier. (What did she see, I can hear you saying). Broadwings are Broad-winged hawks, Sharpies are Sharp-shinned Hawks, Coops are Cooper’s Hawks, RTs (aka redtails or tails) are Red-tailed Hawks and K-birds are American Kestrels. The non-raptors included 4 ravens, which I also love to see.

Today’s photo was taken atop the hawk watch at Waggoner’s Gap, which is along Rte. 74 some 5-6 miles north of Carlisle. The view is to the south, and I could see Roundtop Mtn. across the valley from my perch on Waggoner’s rocks, though you can’t see it in the photo.

For those who might want to visit their local hawkwatch, the peak of the Broadwing migration will be September 17-18 in most areas. Weather can push that date forward or backward by a few days, but given normal weather, that’s when these birds fly. And the peak day usually brings thousands of the birds, often circling (kettling) together in large flocks. It’s quite an amazing sight to see hundreds or even thousands in a single group, and I highly recommend that everyone partake of this amazing natural wonder at least once in their lives.

My day on Waggoner’s Gap will take more than a single blog post to write about, so be prepared to hear more about it during the rest of the week.

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