No, this is not an infomercial for an avian-themed special edition timepiece. However, it is a limited-time offer. Right now, thousands upon thousands of hawks, eagles and other large and interesting birds are migrating south. As a result, birdwatchers are setting up shop on mountaintops along migratory routes, diligently counting each one that goes by. Seriously, they literally count every single one. But just like the brilliant autumn colors, there is a limited window of opportunity to catch them in action.
I recently took my daughter up to Pack Monadnock, a mountain in Peterborough, NH, that has a Raptor Migration Observatory on its peak. Good friends of mine who organize the hawk watch every year said they had gotten reports that morning of unbelievable raptor counts, so we headed up together later that day. Unfortunately by the time we got there, things had quieted down considerably. But the numbers from that morning were there on the board for all to see and were impressive, to say the least.
They saw 2,849 Broad-Winged hawks, all before lunch! But even if you get skunked like we did, it is still a great chance for families to get out and enjoy the fall weather. Let's face it, it is hard to complain about spending a beautiful afternoon on a scenic mountaintop. Plus, the observatories are usually staffed by naturalists who are more than happy to answer questions (as long as they are not busy counting, that is), and there are often educational programs that are open to the public as well.
To find a site near you, check out the Hawk Migration Association of North America's hawk watch locator. Most sites close up shop by the end of October, so be sure to visit one sooner rather than later, and don't forget your binoculars!
(Images: Richard Popovic)