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Friday, October 27, 2006

Lots of Red-tailed Hawks

(Photo credit - Rob J)

On October 30th of last year I posted a report where I mentioned that my “jinx” bird is a Golden Eagle. This is the time of year that Golden Eagles can be found migrating south. With that in mind Sean, Shane and I drove north to the Franklin Mountain hawkwatch. Sean and I left Brooklyn at 4am and planned to meet Shane at the watch.

The Franklin Mt. hawkwatch is situated near the top of a ridge that is part of the expansive Appalachian chain. It faces northwest and has great views of the Susquehanna River valley and surrounding hills of Otsego and Delaware Counties. Raptors in the mid-Atlantic part of the country take advantage of its unique topography. Travelling south from Canada across the Allegheny Plateau they are channeled into the sinuous ridges and valleys of the Appalachian Range. They conserve energy on their long trip by soaring on northwest winds deflected up off of the face of the ridges. Tremendous numbers of Red-tailed Hawks pass the hawkwatch every year.

Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch location

(Photo credit - USGS)

Shane had arrived about 45 minutes prior to us. We parked behind his car and walked the short incline to the watch. It was much colder than I had expected, thankfully I took Sean’s advice and wore many layers. At the clearing near the top of the hill a small wooden shelter had been constructed for the seasonal hawk counters. The northwest wall is exposed to the elements but a half wall provides the necessary respite from the frequent and frigid lake-effect winds. Unfortunately, we had to take advantage of its protection as wind, light rain and snow blasted us early in the morning.

Shane and Sean spotting hawks?

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Steve was manning the watch on Tuesday. After brief introductions we asked him about Golden Eagles. He assured us that we’d get to see one. I remarked that we probably wouldn’t because I was present. A thick blanket of clouds faded in and out over the horizon for two hours. A short-lived snow squall decreased visibility for a while but we still managed to see good numbers of Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks. Also observed were Turkey Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier and one Bald Eagle.

I was astounded by the numbers of Red-tailed Hawks that soared passed our perch on Franklin Mountain. Sean and I only stayed for two hours but in that time we counted 225 red-tails. That averages out to between 1 or 2 per minute! By 11am we still hadn’t seen a Golden Eagle but Sean and I had to leave. When I spoke to Shane later in the day he told me that 10 minutes after we left he and Steve spotted a Golden Eagle.

I was returning home late in the afternoon on Thursday. Standing at the intersection of 8th Avenue and 4th Street, waiting for the traffic light to change, I began daydreaming about Tuesday’s experience. I wondered if any of the individuals in the southbound stream of Red-tailed Hawks could pass through Brooklyn. I looked up into the sky and, above the brownstones and apartment buildings, I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk soaring in wide circles. When it flew out of view I crossed the street and continued towards my apartment. At the next corner I spotted a woman staring up at the sky. I figured that she was watching the red-tail so I stopped to talk to her. As the two of us were staring skyward we spotted a second then a third Red-tailed Hawk circling the area and slowly moving south. Perhaps that is how Big Mama, Split-tail, Ralph, Alice and the Green-Wood Cemetery red-tails found their way to Brooklyn, only they never went north in the spring.

-Click here for more info on Franklin Mt.-


David Salmon said...

Great account! Quaker Ridge, somewhat closer, has seen Goldens Monday through Thursday this week with NW winds. I saw an immature right overhead and fairly low on Wednesday. Earlier they had one dive on a Red-tailed Hawk.

Guy Barry said...

Very exciting and informative

Pamela said...

Been busy - and just caught up on your past weeks of posting. Loved the Kinglet pix. We are supposed to have both varieties in the area but I just never see them.

I have seen a Golden Eagle, and we have a Merlin that comes and perches above our bird feeder and nabs his dinner quite often. I know he's been here when there is a perfect circle of feathers on the ground.

Hope your Golden Jinx is over soon.

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