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Archive for September, 2012

Hawk Migration

While the leaves may not be changing yet, autumn is coming, and one of the first signs is the influx of migratory birds.  From warblers to birds of prey, September is a great time for bird watching, and the Lehigh Valley here in Pennsylvania is a world renowned  migration corridor.  With two major hawk watching sites and many more places to spot migrant passerines and water fowl, it is little wonder that such a reputation has be bestowed on our area.

Just yesterday, I found myself climbing a small but rocky section of the Appalachian Trail, just north of Germansville, Pennsylvania. After hiking up the rocky I slope, I arrived at a very familiar rocky outcropping. Bake Oven Knob, though now covered with spray paint and beer cans, has a long history in local hawk migration. Currently it is the site of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center’s Autumn Hawk Watch, but as recently as the 1950’s the site had been used as a hunting post by local farmers, whose Chickens were often decimated by the migratory birds of prey. Even after the killing of hawks had been illegalized it took extraordinary efforts to stop the bloodshed. Hired as a ridgerunner by Hawk Mountain founder Michael Brune, Don Heintzleman helped to stop the guns and establish a peaceful watch site at Bake Oven Knob. Data on hawk migration has been collected at this site since the 1970s and continues today, largely as a result of the dedicated work of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, which hires an intern each year to conduct the count.

Despite the unwanted graffiti and trash, the site remains and great place to observe the autumn migration. Just yesterday over 800 Broadwinged Hawks were sited from the lookout. The lookout is not only a great place to spot Hawks, but also Monarch Butterflies, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, warblers, chimney swifts and loons, as they fly south along the Kittatiny Ridge.

Mid-September is a great time to grab the binoculars and head to the lookout. The Broadwing flight is currently peaking and will usually continue into late September, with large kettles of over a hundred birds expected.

Another great site to watch the Hawk Migration is Hawk Mountain in Kempton, Pennsylvania. Hawk Mountain was similarly once a site where hawks were hunted, but is now a Hawk research center. Hawk Mountain is situated at the confluence of South Mountain and the Blue Ridge. The wind patterns that occur as a result make Hawk Mountain an extraordinary Hawk observatory.

Other places to bird watch include; Lehigh Gap Nature Center, Delaware Water Gap, Wher’s Dam, Beltzville Reservoir, Bear Rocks, Martin’s Creek Environmental Preserve, Jordan Creek Parkway, Little Lehigh Parkway, Monocacy Nature Center, South Mountain Preserve, Nockamixon State Park.

In other news, I will be updating the blog with my summer journals from the Adirondacks in a section named, My First Summer in the Adirondacks. I hope to have the first set of entries up very soon.

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