Raptor Wednesday

Within three hours of New York City, there are a number of places where you can spot soaring and south-bound migrating raptors this time of year.

The most famous is the farthest away: Hawk Mountain in PA. I’ve been once; it was a pretty slow day for hawks. That’s always the gamble: are the weather conditions right?

Here’s a panorama of the view from the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch near Mt. Kisco in Westchester Co. Looking towards Connecticut, with a bit of LI Sound to the far right.

This watch is run by the Bedford Audubon on the Nature Conservancy’s Arthur M. Butler Memorial Sanctuary. We visited on Saturday: that day’s totals are here. Most sightings were fairly distant, but we did have Broad-winged Hawks directly overhead, and looking down on Turkey Vultures is a nice change of pace.

We can’t say enough nice things about the three Bedford Audubon folks (Tait, Charlotte, and official counter Silvan) who were up there counting and sharing their knowledge. Plus they have bleacher seating! The site is a fairly easy ten-minute hike up from the parking lot. Downside: the noise of the unseen highway below is loud, and the morning sun is bright, but by 11:30 there was some shade. Here’s the view north from State Line Lookout, just south of the NY/NJ border in the Palisades Interstate Park. We stopped off here, too, on a roundabout way back to the city on Saturday. It’s a pretty different scene at this hawk watch: a lot more people (it’s next to a parking lot & cafe), a lot more bazooka-length cameras. But the birds can be much more obliging. On Saturday we had very close looks at several Sharpies, Peregrines, and Ospreys. There are, in fact, a family of Peregrine living in the area. They were perched fairly close to the lookout. For someone used to seeing these birds on buildings and bridges, their relatively newly adopted habitat (cf. London), watching them perch on their age-old cliff-face habitat was pretty special.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of local hawk watches. For instance, there’s also Hook Mountain in Nyack, NY, which we have not visited. Let us know about others!

And right here in NYC is Fort Tilden. When conditions are right, this is a great place to watch the birds shooting west from further down Long Island.

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