Monday, October 24, 2011


View to the north from Waggoner's Gap
 Hawkwatching at Waggoner’s Gap near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on Friday was outstanding. The day had most of the elements for what I consider a great day: clouds and lots of low-flying raptors. Wind that didn’t blow me off the mountain or make the temperature feel brutal was also plus. And having the fall colors near their peak didn’t hurt either.

Often, people who are new to hawkwatching choose a day with a beautiful blue sky to show up, and they are usually disappointed. On a day without clouds, the hawks can fly thousands of feet high, and squinting at teeny, tiny specks (or even finding a teeny, tiny speck) isn’t a lot of fun for them or for me. What is fun is having the birds fly low past wherever I’m sitting, and for that kind of day you need clouds to hold them lower. And Friday was that kind of day. Most of the time my binoculars were lowered, and I just watched the raptors fly past.

The hint of a rainbow
The overcast sky was a bit too overcast for hawk photography, so I settled for views from the mountain on the few times the sun came out or nearly came out. The colors were very near the peak on Friday, and watching the ever-changing light skitter across the valley to the north was a treat. The hawks flew often, though, and I didn’t have tons of time to contemplate the view. A couple of time a few drops of rain fell, not enough to even wet the rocks but enough to start the edge of a rainbow for a few moments.

 The main hawk flying on Friday was the little sharp-shinned hawk, a feisty accipiter that doesn’t like to share the sky with other raptors or even members of its own species for very long. They will dive-bomb each other and other raptors with impunity, and seeing the aerial acrobatics simply adds to the fun.

“Sharpies” were the main attraction but not the only one. Cooper’s hawks were pretty abundant. Two peregrine falcons flew by, one very close, as did a couple of bald eagles, some red-tailed hawks and American kestrels. For the non-raptor species, I always look forward to seeing the ravens, even if some are likely local birds, and an unexpected highlight were the 7 common loons flying south in formation, flapping hard across the mountain.
Saturday and Sunday were both perfectly gorgeous weather days here. I’m unofficially calling Sunday the peak of the fall color. Part of that is simply because rain is predicted for this evening and the mid-week, and that will likely bring down a lot of the leaves. I took a lot of photos this weekend, and you’ll get to see the best of them this week in Roundtop Ruminations.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

Sounds like you had a good day. The only bird you mention which is familiar here is the Peregrine, which is making a bit of a comeback having been on the edge of extinction. Personally I can sit and watch any bird that puts on a good aerial display so I'd have enjoyed those sharpies. Have a good week.

Cathy said...

Oh good, you got to see your hawks and a bit a rainbow too. Enjoy the fall colors, snow is coming! I might see a snowflakes on Thursday

Scott said...

Thanks for the update, Carolyn. Since you had such a good day, I expected a report much sooner, but this was great. Loons, huh? Neat! I'll have to check my Peterson's to see where they overwinter.

Carolyn H said...

John: I'm of the opinion that even a bad day on a hawkwatch is better than a good day anyplace else. But that's just me.

Cathy: Yes, snow IS coming. It's in my forecast as possible for both Thursday night and Saturday. I'm not sure I'm quite ready for that just yet!!

Scott: Ah, sorry about the timing. I got busy with enjoying the fall colors over the weekend and didn't post. I'll try to make up for that with more posts this week. Loons are a rare sight (for me at least) on a hawkwatch, but I always look forward to seeing them.