It’s Raptor Central in the Mid-Atlantic!
Audubon Mid-Atlantic
Chapter Chatter Newsletter October 2021
Northern Harrier
Look to the Skies
Fall migration is well underway and, of the main delights offered to birders this time of year, hawk watches are a special treat.

In case you missed it, hawk watching along the Kittatinny Ridge is highlighted in this month’s Audubon Magazine, featuring an interview with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary’s Dr. Laurie Goodrich. There’s also a companion article on our website here

Read on to learn about two hawk watches in the Mid-Atlantic region. Although  wildly different in geography and landscapes, they each capture and convey to visitors and volunteers the awe-inspiring feeling of being a witness to nature at its best.

And, remember to save the date for the 2021 Audubon Mid-Atlantic Virtual Chapter Gathering this November. Read on for all the details and click here to sign up.

  Click here to read the hawk watch feature in this month's Audubon Magazine.
Northern Harrier. Photo: Fi Rust/Audubon Photography Awards
Turkey Vulture
On the Shores of Lake Erie: A Bird's Eye View of the Presque Isle Hawk Watch
Listening to Jerry McWilliams, founder of the Presque Isle Hawk Watch, recount the history of the Lake Erie phenomenon is akin to having a front row seat to a gifted storyteller with all the insight and insider knowledge that makes a person immediately want to jump in the car, drive to the hawk watch site, and start counting!

Although preceded by many years of informal counts and observations, the Presque Isle Hawk Watch on the shores of Lake Erie became official in 2008. Situated at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center in Presque Isle State Park, the hawk watch takes flight every spring from March 1st through May 31st.

Known for the record-setting numbers of Turkey Vultures that migrate overhead each year (daily high average of 2,800), the site also boasts impressive counts of other well-known raptor species including an average season daily highof 26 for Bald Eagles and 1731 for Broad-winged Hawks. Presque Isle is also an excellent spot for catching sight of the unexpected. Over the years, Short-eared Owls, a smattering of Swallow-tailed and Mississippi Kites, a large flock of whimbrels, an ibis, an Olive-sided Flycatcher, and a couple of Yellow-headed Blackbirds have all graced the shores of Lake Erie.   And a rather famous trio of radio-tagged Whooping Cranes were reported at the Ripley Hawk Watch in New York, just 20 miles northeast of the Presque Isle Hawk Watch.

The magic is in the south and southwest winds. These winds nudge the birds against the southern shore of Lake Erie, creating a stacking effect that results in an incredible overhead spectacle of birds in flight. Over a narrow strip of shoreline, hawk watchers, beguiled tourists, and park visitors need only look up to see nature in motion and feel they are part of the rhythm of migration. As an added treat, the southerly winds that are so vital to migrating raptors also bring a host of other winged delights including red admiral butterflies, black saddlebag and green darner dragonflies, and thousands of American Robins, Blue Jays, American Crows, and blackbirds.

Whether a seasoned counter or a first-time watcher, birders of all levels enjoy the Presque Isle Hawk Watch. And with plans to expand the site to include a new observation deck in the coming years, there will be even more to love and enjoy!

 
Turkey Vulture. Photo: John Comisky/Audubon Photography Awards
Golden Eagle
Golden Flight: An Insider Look at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch:
The Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society (APAS) is best known for its management of the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, located near the Bedford/Somerset county line. Situated along the eastern side of the Allegheny Front section of the Appalachian Plateaus Province, the steep escarpment is part of a migratory “superhighway” for 16 species of raptors flying south in the fall and north each spring. While each species is interesting to observe, the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch is famous for its close encounters with the Golden Eagles. Easterly winds push the birds toward the hillside, resulting in a marvelous scene for the hawk watchers on the ridge below.  On occasion, the goldens fly close enough to make eye contact with their human observers; an experience that is simply unheard of at other sites. It can have a profound effect on both novice and seasoned watchers - as well it should - for staring into the eye of an apex predator in completely wild conditions is extraordinarily uncommon.

But there is a price to pay for doing so…braving the special brand of cold that welcomes ridgetop visitors! Golden Eagle season occurs from mid-October through December and strong winds are a key ingredient for supporting eagle flight. The confluence of frigid temperatures and high winds isn’t for the faint of heart, but for those willing to endure the chill, the opportunity to catch a glimpse of an elusive, golden bird of prey makes it all worthwhile. When conditions are good, more than a dozen goldens might pass overhead. But on rare days, when everything comes together just right, visitors might be treated to the sight of several dozen goldens silhouetted against the blue. Either way, volunteer counters are always eager to regale visitors with the history of the site, reminisce about big count days, and help with identification.

The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch has been collecting high quality data for more than 25 years and still counts some of the original hawk watchers among its ranks. Always looking to bring new birders into the flock, APAS actively recruits younger hawkwatchers, cultivating their skills over multiple seasons to preserve an age-old tradition that has increased our understanding of raptor migration and led the way in community science efforts.

The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch welcomes public participation during fall migration from mid-August to early December and in spring from late February to May.

Golden Eagle. Photo: Dave Poder/Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society
Eastern Phoebe
Come Together: Virtual Fall Mid-Atlantic Chapter Gathering
Mark your calendars for the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Audubon Virtual Chapter Gathering on Friday, November 19th and Saturday 20th.

We’ll gather on Friday evening to hear from Mid-Atlantic staff on program highlights and updates. And on Saturday, we have a full day of speakers and discussion sessions. We plan to offer four tracks based on the priorities that you shared through your survey responses and our leadership call discussion. 

Sign up today and stay tuned over the next few weeks for a full agenda as presenters and sessions are confirmed. 
Eastern Phoebe. Photo: Robyn Newman/Audubon Photography Awards
Register for the 2021 Virtual Chapter Gathering Here!
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