Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Kempton, reports that its annual autumn hawkwatch is shaping up to be an interesting season in the skies. Just two weeks into the count, numbers of many species are above average for this time of year, and none more so than the Bald Eagle…especially on Thursday, August 26, when Research Biologist David Barber tallied 36 Bald Eagles, the second-highest one-day count in Hawk Mountain history.
The highest one-day count occurred in 1950 when 48 Bald Eagles sailed south. The August 26 tally is the highest one-day count since the DDT-era, and further sign of recovery of this species in the lower 48 states.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is recognized internationally as the first and one of the most famous raptor migration watchsites in the world. Each autumn an average 18,000 birds of prey soar south over the Sanctuary's rocky North Lookout, providing an ideal spot to observe as many as 16 species of birds of prey. Biologists at the Sanctuary use the migration to monitor eastern North American species, and each autumn biologists and volunteers conduct a daily, systematic count that begins August 15 and ends December 15. Visitors to the Sanctuary join the official counters to take in the views and with any luck, catch some great views of passing raptors.
As with many "good days" at Hawk Mountain, the big Bald Eagle day followed the passage of a cold front, and the bulk of eagles passed in the later afternoon. After 3 pm Barber says the skies were filled with eagles, some soaring past in groups of three and four. Nine eagles passed between 3 and 4 pm, and another 14 soared by between 4 and 5 pm. The eagle parade continued on Friday, August 27 when another dozen passed along with 46 Broad-winged Hawks and 16 Red-tailed Hawks. Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged and Red-tailed Hawks all were seen every day last week.
Between August 15 and August 29, Hawk Mountain reported a total 625 migrant raptors including 237 Broad-winged Hawks, 79 Bald Eagles, 70 Ospreys, 45 Sharp-shinned and 44 American Kestrels. Both the daily count as well as the cumulative total for each species is updated each evening on the Sanctuary's website, www.hawkmountain.org.