|View to the north from Waggoner's Gap|
Broadwings are one of the few species of North American hawks that fly in flocks, or as hawkwatchers call them "kettles." The birds gravitate towards thermals, columns of warm air. In those columns the birds circle and rise every higher. When they reach the top of the thermal, they "stream" out in a single file. Then they glide, gradually losing altitude until they search for another thermal to take them higher again. They travel down to Central America, and gliding conserves energy, making that long trip easier.
During this week, the broadwings are the stars, but they aren't the only hawk in the air. I saw 15-17 Bald Eagles, plenty of Sharp-shinned Hawks, a few Cooper's Hawks, American Kestrels and a few Northern Harriers.
When the hawks aren't flying, those of us sitting on a hawkwatch usually talk about hawks, watch other species of birds or just take in the beautiful scenery. Usually I do all three, though not at the same time. One of my retirement goals is to spend an entire season on a hawkwatch, from the first day of the season to the last. As it is, I probably won't get back until October, when the numbers of hawks are fewer but a wider variety of species is common. And then there's always November, when Golden Eagles and Rough-legged Hawks fly. The entire fall lies ahead of me, with as much hawkwatching as I can fit in.