Saturday, September 12, 2009

Which was the first hawkwatch to open for the fall season?

Which hawkwatch was the first to officially open to count hawks this fall season?

That would be Waggoner’s Gap, near Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Waggoner’s opened this year on August 1 and had through Thursday so far counted 1052 migrating raptors this season.

Their current tally includes a great total of 121 Bald Eagles. I visited the hawkwatch this past Sunday and managed to spot an eagle that turned out to be eagle #100 for the season. Broad-winged Hawk numbers are also starting to increase here and elsewhere ahead of their annual mid-September push.

Waggoner's compiler, and one of their regular counters, is Dave Grove. Waggoner’s is one of our older hawkwatches. People have watched here since the 1930’s, but counts weren’t recorded until 1948.

The rocky watch site on the border between Cumberland and Perry counties was in private hands until 1953, when it was purchased by the Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary Trust. In 2001 20 acres, including the hawkwatch, was deeded to Pennsylvania Audubon. Since then improvements such as a bigger parking lot and new trails were built.

Waggoner’s regularly counts between 5-8,000 "Broadwings" (Broad-winged Hawks) each year. In each of the past four years they’ve topped 300 Bald Eagles and for the past 10 years or so 200+ Golden Eagles. The total count for a season is often over 20,000 hawks. If you want to visit, add a good cushion to your daypack—those rocks never get any softer!

Thursday on the hawkwatches: Several hawkwatches, the majority in Pennsylvania, posted some nice Broad-winged Hawk numbers on Thursday. Allegheny Front led everyone with a total count of 651 (626 Broadwings), closely followed by Hawk Mountain with a total of 658 (535 Broadwings) and the nearby Bake Oven Knob with 474 (429 were Broadwings). Outside of Pennsylvaniva, Little Round Top in New Hampshire wasn't so little with 477 (431 Broadwings), ahead even of Lake Erie Metropark in the total number of Broadwings seen. Lake Erie had more total hawks, 495, than Little Roundtop but slightly fewer Broadwings with 367.

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