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Experience a Hawk watch and Learn About Raptors

Join us on an upcoming field trip!

Raptor in Flight, photo by Jen Esten, Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory

Twice a year, during spring and fall, raptors embark on magnificent migrations along predictable routes or "flyways". Utilizing wind currents, these majestic birds often follow mountainous terrains and coastlines as they journey between their breeding and wintering habitats. This collective movement attacts many "hawkwatchers"to witness this impressive phenomenon and to learn about raptors.

Raptors serve as excellent barometers of ecological well-being due to their presence across diverse ecosystems, expansive territorial ranges, position atop the food chain, and heightened susceptibility to chemical pollutants and human interferences. Their tendency to gather in noticeable numbers during migration, especially along coastlines, notable mountainous terrains, and river valleys, further simplifies the task of counting them.

About a Hawkwatch

Prime locations for observing hawks have given rise to hawkwatches – dedicated spots where each year or season, people congregate to marvel at these birds. While some hawkwatches are centers for detailed scientific research, where raptor counts have been meticulously recorded over the years, others are informal gatherings of friends and enthusiasts rejoicing in the view. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in eastern Pennsylvania, established in 1934 on the Kittatinny Ridge, holds the distinction of being the United States' inaugural hawkwatch site. It plays a pivotal role in tracking hawk migrations along the Central & South American Flyway.

Experiencing a hawkwatch offers a unique chance to observe raptors in their true flying essence. There's a certain thrill in standing atop a mountain or along a coastline, watching what are often elusive birds soar by in large numbers. This vantage point also provides opportunities to spot a variety of other birds. For someone new to hawkwatching, understanding the intricacies of a raptor’s physique, flight patterns, and behavior is essential. While numerous field guides exist, the most enriching way to learn is by accompanying an experienced watcher, observing keenly, and asking questions to deepen one’s understanding.

Pack Monadnock [alternatively Mount Wachusett]

New England boasts some impressive hawkwatching locales. Since its initiation in 2005, Pack Monadnock has been keeping tabs on migrating raptors. Every fall, it consistently logs over 11,000 raptors, making it a premier hawkwatching spot in northern New England.

During the autumn migration, biologists at Pack Monadnock identify as many as 15 distinct raptor species. Between mid-September and mid-October, one can witness impressive daily and seasonal flights of raptors such as Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, and Bald Eagles. As mid-October transitions to mid-November, sightings of Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks become common.

The best time to observe a hawkwatch is following a cold front, as the raptor migration becomes especially prominent on northwest winds.

Join us on a Spark Birding field trip

Peter Alden and Lillian Stokes are watching the weather closely to set a date in the upcoming weeks. We will announce this as soon as the conditions are best!


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