10/07/2010

Between the Earth and the Sky

http://www.hawkmountain.org/

If you're a birder, with  capital 'B', then you will have heard of Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania. Since 1932, it has been a sanctuary for birds and buteos and  buzzards and the humans who want to watch them.
It is an international birding hotspot, and people from all over the world
make special vacation plans so they can be here. 
Just like we did two weeks ago.
The first bird I saw was big. And goofy looking.
Oh. A guide to let us (and the 100's of others streaming to the park)
know that we had arrived. And park your car over there to the left, please.
Keeeekkkkkk!
If by chance you didn't actually know why you were here, the park is filled with reminders, and outdoor guides to let you know what you may be seeing.

And the excitement begins to build as you realize it is entirely possible that you may soon be eyeball to eyeball with a bald eagle. Or a hummingbird.
Just depends which way the wind blows.

So filled with energetic expectation you begin the trek to the top.
 A mere 1500 feet. Straight up, and sometimes down, over boulders.
Can I just say that this looks a lot easier than it actually is? Not so much the climb, but scrambling over and around the rocks was an exercise in ankular dexterity. And for god's sake, don't wear flip flops! ( No, I didn't.)
1450 feet later from this spot on the path, I spotted my first bird!

A Great Horned Owl. Just sitting there! Oh, wait...why is there a tail feather lofting in the breeze? And why so mangy looking? Ah ha!
It's a stuffy GHO. Truly.
I guess he's mounted here to let you know that you are indeed now here too. You're at the north summit, a remote corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, where you  can sit quietly and watch as hawks soar by, catching thermals alongside the mountain ridges and kettling before your eyes. A sight to behold.
Did I say alone? No?
Good, because that is one thing you won't be.
(And no, it isn't a Tilley Hat fashion show.)
It was such a surprise to see all of these people! Although in hindsight I can't imagine why, as they likely read the same birding publications that I do, and were just doing exactly what we were. Seeking Mecca!
So, what's a birder to do?  Enjoy the scenery...birders come in all shapes and sizes, and you may as well people watch while you're waiting
for a bird to fly past.



He was enjoying the cool mountain breezes as well.
Eventually, the birds drifted through. On bright, sunny days like the day of our visit, the traffic is slow. No imminent storm brewing,
no strong winds blowing...
just a nice day for a leisurely flight south.
This Bald Eagle -the fuzzy one that was pretty far way- was one of four that we saw, along with several Broadwings, Sharp Shins, Coopers, Merlins, and assorted other birds, including Chimney Swifts, a Hummingbird,
and some Cedar Waxwings.
Oh, and a Bronze Eagle. Best shot of the day!


 Hawk watching is a different kind of birding all together. Unlike warblers or shorebirds, that you seek out and generally find as you enter their habitat, with
hawks you sit and wait. And wait. And hope the wind picks up.
Would I go back? Depends which way the wind's blowing.
Was I happy we went?
Do birds have wings?

8 comments:

Dave said...

Lucky girl! That's on my list of "Things to do besides going to work."

"ankular dexterity", I'll have to remember that one...

robin andrea said...

I've never heard of this place in Pennsylvania, and now it's on my list of places to go. We saw Bald Eagles nearly every day in Port Townsend, Wa. I never took it for granted, and now I miss it more than ever.

Do you remember, when you were young, watching the sky literally darken with migrating birds? I grew up back east, and have memories of skies full of birds every spring and fall. Does it still happen like that anymore?

Susan said...

thought you'd appreciate that one Dave!;>)
Robin- I grew up on the prairies of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and I remember the sky black with endless waves of ducks. I haven't seen that in years...although sometimes flocks of starlings are pretty impressive (except taht they're Starlings)This time of year we see skeins of geese and that's a lovely sight...1000's of them over the course of the day...but still...no blackening of the sky. It would be lovely to see again,wouldn't it?

Diane AZ said...

What an interesting bird and people- watching adventure that turned out to be!

DUTA said...

The picture with all those bird watchers "in all shapes and sizes" - is very beautiful.
Remarkable capture, Susan!

steviewren said...

If it's hawk watching you want, you're invited to my backyard anytime. I regularly see them from all sides of my house actually.

The scenery atop the mountain was worth the climb, even if the birds hadn't shown up. Love the guy in the kilt...best show of the day!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Susan. Heard of it ... sure have. I was due to visit some years ago but the itinerary got changed so thanks for sharing the experience. BTW I wouldn't have looked out of place in my Tilley .. lol. Cheers FAB.

Ruth said...

Even if birds were scarce, people watching doesn't get much better than this. How nice that you had the opportunity to check this place out.