“Another Broad-winged” the bespectacled lounger shouted out.
“Make that three” another spoke out.
I followed their gaze skyward and spotted small black dots. I tried my binoculars.
Larger black dots. I’m instantly impressed with these people’s bird identification skills.
I’m on top of Hawk Mountain in Kempton, Pennsylvania in mid-September. Dotted on every nearly horizontal surface of North Lookout is a chair where a bundled and binocular-ed bird watchers sits scanning the skies overhead. A uniformed volunteer is the counter and the recipient of the shouts. In her notebook, she keeps a tally of the species and numbers of hawks as they are spotted. The spotters constantly converse about bird numbers and locations to make sure that they are not reporting the same birds. I join the ranks of the dumbfounded. We form a loose bond by helping each other see what the seasoned spotters are identifying.
Such a scene is taking place all over the country this month and next. Hawks, turkey vultures, falcons, eagles and songbirds are concentrating along the pathways of their ancestors, heading south for a dependable food supply before winter sets in. These pathways, called flyways, often follow ridges where updrafts and thermals help the birds conserve energy on their long flights. Hawk Mountain is located along the Appalachian Flyway and averages sightings of 17,925 raptors per year.
Certain locations and weather conditions allow you to see the birds much more closely as they follow the mountaintop where you may be perched. Here is a website of the Hawk Migration Association of North America to find a location near you. Bring your binoculars and maybe a lightweight chair or just spread out on your back and watch skyward. Your hike up the mountain may be rewarded many-fold.
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