Posts Tagged ‘hawk watching’

Mike scoping the skies for hawks from Raccoon Ridge.

Mike scoping the skies for hawks from Raccoon Ridge.

The Raccoon Ridge Hawk Watch, located at the top of a ridge on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, embodies a much more rugged style of hawkwatching than you would find at my regular spot, Quaker Ridge. Raccoon Ridge, or “Coon,” as it’s affectionately called by some, has none of the amenities that Greenwich offers – no multi-million dollar heated facility, no easy step-out-your-car-and-start-watching access, not even any wooden lawn chairs! 🙂 Still, it has its advantages. Up on the ridge, a large percentage of migrating hawks fly by around eye-level, and on good days can come within dozens of feet of observers. Not to mention the breathtaking view from which four states are visible.

young balds

Two young Bald Eagles interacting.

On Sunday I caught a ride with long time hawkwatcher, Mike, who was making the trek out to the ridge with his son (it’s two hours from his house and about 1.5 from mine). Despite rain early on, we decided to go for it, as the skies to the north and west were clear. After arriving a bit after 8 am, we embarked on the hike up to the ridgetop. It was tough, but bird-wise, uneventful. We set up at “Mid Coon,” a spot a couple hundred feet downridge from the actual hawk watch site, from which one can get better views of birds sticking close to the ridge. Unfortunately, the winds, even though out of the north west, were a tad light, meaning hawks were not forced close to the ridge. As a result, most of our hawks were overhead.

A large flock of Brant.

Although by no means a banner day, we saw a sizable number of hawks (around 150), mostly migrating Red-taileds, but also consisting of a large number of Red-shouldered Hawks and many Bald Eagles. The best raptors we saw were a young Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle.


A close-in juvenile Northern Goshawk.

With the sun getting low in the sky and a long hike back ahead of us, we started heading down around 4 pm; good timing, too, as the sun disappeared behind the horizon as we neared the car. In the fading light I did spot a light-colored Ruffed Grouse, but since my binoculars were buried in my pack l wasn’t able to get any good looks. Still, a fun and exciting second trip to Raccoon Ridge.


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Who needs hawks when you have mice?

Who needs hawks when you have mice?

Today was PSAT day, meaning we had no classes (besides the test). So, after finishing the PSAT, we all went home. Well…

I, seeing that there were NNW winds and partly cloudy skies, chose a different option. I’m glad I did.

There were lots of birds around at the Quaker Ridge Hawk Watch in Greenwich, CT. Yellow-rumped Warblers were absolutely everywhere you looked. I couldn’t go one minute without hearing their characteristic “chup” note or seeing one fly into view. Canada Geese and Double-crested Cormorants were moving as well — over 900 geese and 100 cormorants flew over the watch. We noted a goose that looked noticeably smaller than the others, with a much quicker flap, but we couldn’t be sure it was a Cackling Goose.

The fourth goose from the right appeared smaller, witch quicker wingbeats. Terrible photo though.

The fourth goose from the right appeared smaller, with quicker wingbeats. Terrible photo to show that though.

Of course, there were hawks too. Almost all the expected species showed up (we saw TWELVE species of migrating raptors), including two Peregrine Falcons, one which came right over not too far above tree height.

Around noon, someone found a young mouse (edit: I’ve been told it’s a very young Deer Mouse White-footed Mouse — thanks Joe), and since the hawk show had temporarily slowed down, why not watch mice?



During this lull in the action, around 1pm, I decided to take a break from the hawks and go on a walk in the field to look for passerines (songbirds). It was quite a fruitful walk – White-crowned, Lincoln’s, Savannah, Swamp, Song, White-throated, and of course ubiquitous House Sparrows all turned up, as did a brilliantly yellow Palm Warbler.

As I was walking, I kept glimpsing more sparrows just around the corner, and I ended up in the orchard, far from the hawk watch. Suddenly, my phone started vibrating. When I saw the display read “Luke Tiller,” our hawk watcher, I started to realize that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have wandered off so far.

“We just had two Mississippi Kites.”

Mississippi Kites?!?!?!?!?

“Are you serious??”


“Are they still there?!”

“They’re gone now, or they’re going to be gone.”

I sprinted all the way from the orchard to the hawk watch as fast as I could. (That’s one of the benefits of running the 400 meter dash, by the way.) Arriving out of breath (indoor track doesn’t start for a couple weeks ;)) , I ask where the birds are.

“It’s just gone into the sun.”

Great. The sun is just above the treeline.

“Oh wait it’s coming back!”

Sweeeeeeet! The bird came streaking back, just over the tops of the trees. I didn’t get killer looks; the bird was silhouetted (and no chance for a photo), but it was good enough.

What a day!

These guys were EVERYWHERE! Dozens and dozens and dozens...

These guys were EVERYWHERE! Dozens and dozens and dozens...

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