The Photography of D L Ennis, and more!


Friday, August 11, 2006

Beginning in early September—Autumn Hawk Migration in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Image: by D L Ennis, Redtail Hawk

Beginning in early September extending through November, hawks and other birds of prey can be seen migrating from the northeast to the southwest to winter in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

Using the Appalachian Mountains and, to a lesser degree, the Allegheny Mountain range as their flyway offering all who wish to view these magnificent birds a visual experience to be savored. The mountains also ease the long journey by providing updrafts that the birds use so efficiently that it’s possible for them travel hundreds of miles without a single beat of their wings—as witnessed by the late (1899-1980) naturalist, Edwin Way Teale.

Eagles, kestrels, ospreys, peregrine falcons, vultures can also be seen, but for the most part you’ll view broad-winged, red-tailed, and red-shouldered hawks (genus Buteo lineatus) and the smaller, Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks (genus Accipiter cooperii.)

The number of migrating hawks that travel the mountain flyway can, on a lucky day for the observer, can be enormous. On September 15th 1985 spectators estimated that upwards of 10,000 broad-winged hawks passed by Rockfish Gap at milepost 0 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. In a single day, during the third week of September, birders counted more than 17,000 broad-wings passing by Linden Fire Tower in northern Virginia.

Though picking a day for viewing is guess work you can increase your odds of seeing great numbers of hawks by being in place from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.—after the sun warms the air currents. Also the week of September 15 is normally the peak of the migration, and the week of October 1 offering the most variety.

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive offer many excellent viewing areas from overlooks. Below is a list of some of the best viewing areas in the Blue Ridge Mountains along the Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina

Premier Viewing Spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Starting in Virginia
Rockfish Gap (Milepost 0)
Afton Overlook (MP .2)
Ravens Roost (MP 10.7)

In Shanendoah National Park
Hawksbill (requires hiking)
Stony Man (requires hiking)
Mary's Rock (requires hiking)
Calf Mountain Overlook
Irish Creek OL (MP 42.4)
Buena Vista OL (MP 45.6)
Peaks of Otter
Especially Harvey's Knob OL (MP 95.3)
Mill's Gap (MP 91.9)
Purgatory Mtn. (MP 92.2)
Sharptop (MP 92.4)
Montvale (MP 95.9)
Great Valley (MP 99.6)
Saddle Parking OL (MP 168)
Near Rocky Knob Visitor Center (MP 169)
Cumberland Knob (Park at MP 219)
Mahogany Rock, and nearby Scott Ridge (MP 235)
Jumpin' Off Rock (MP 260)
Thunderhill OL (MP 290.5)
Grandfather Mtn./ Ship Rock (MP 302.8)
Table Rock Mtn. at Linville Gorge
Three Knobs OL (MP 338.8)
Black Mtns. (MP 342.2)
Licklog Ridge (MP 349.9)
Fire Tower on Green Knob (360 degree views, MP 350.4)
Mt. Mitchell Summit (MP 355.4)
Craggy Pinnacle OL (MP 364.1)
Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (MP 364.6)
Mills Valley OL (MP 404.5)
Devils' Courthouse (MP 422.4)

Here are a few other places for birders interested in the migration…

Viewing at other spots

In Pennsylvania Hawk Mountain- This is the center of the universe for Hawk watchers in the eastern U.S., bringing on average more than 24,000 raptors of 16 species over it's North Lookout. The Visitor Center has a museum on birds of prey, art gallery and gift shop.

Their address is;
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Kempton, Pa. 19529-9449
(610) 756-6961.

Wildcat Rocks at South Mountain In Maryland
Washington Monument State Park
Catoctin Mountain Park at Blue Ridge Summit Vista and Hog Rock

In North Carolina Chimney Rock Park
In South Carolina Ceasar's Head State Park (Last year over 7000 Broadwinged Hawks were spotted here on Sept. 29)

Maps of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Map of the Skyline Drive


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