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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Hawkwatch at Hook Mountain above the Hudson River

Watching the wind, watching for hawks

(Photo credit - Rob J)

I have had a very difficult time writing this report. Each time I start to write I get stuck on an effective description of the Broad-winged Hawk migration spectacle. How does one convey in words, the energy and excitement generated by the sight of a swirling column composed of hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks? Even the photographs fail to capture the essence of these creatures spectacular southbound synchronicity. I try to visualize thousands of Broad-winged Hawks spread out over the boreal forests of Canada awakening one day and gradually flying towards an unconsciously predetermined staging area. Then, one day, when the wind and temperature are just right, these unrelated individuals lift from their roosts and start to move as a single unit, following an invisible highway of rising warm air.

Turkey Vulture

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We faced north on the top of Hook Mountain, 720 feet above the Hudson River, waiting for the arrival of the first Broad-winged Hawks of the day. Turkey Vultures hung on rising warm air on the south side of the mountain. A family of local Red-tailed Hawks hunted above the valley on the north side of the ridge.

Ron and other watchers

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Someone shouted that a kettle was approaching from the northeast and we all snapped our binoculars up to our eyes. Set off by blue sky with patches of vapor trails and wispy clouds, a tall column of black dots was gradually drifting in our direction. As it got closer I realized that it was made up of many more hawks than I could originally discern. Their wings were barely moving yet they managed to remain a tight unit. They followed the same long north/south ridge that carries them to their wintering ground every year. As they passed above us I could only capture a small portion of their numbers on my camera. It took five minutes for the whole flock to pass over us and continue in the direction of the city skyline on the horizon.

The first kettle of Broad-winged Hawks approaching

(Photo credit - Rob J)

A little closer

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Passing above us

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The official "counters" for that day tallied approximately 800 individuals in that single flock. By the end of the day over 1,300 Broad-winged Hawks drifted passed our perch above the river.

-click to see Hook Mt. hawk count summary-

Looking at insects during a lull

Black Swallowtail

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Convergent Ladybug Beetle

(Photo credit - Rob J)

- - - - -

Hook Mountain, 9/19/2004
Double-crested Cormorant
Canada Goose
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow Warbler
American Goldfinch

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