September 20, 2012 —
The lower sun angles and the cooler temperatures of September trigger some changes in nature; for some birds, this is the cue to start heading for warmer climes. Hummingbirds exit the region this month, as well as many other bird species. This is the start time for some raptor species as well. In the right locations, this is a good opportunity to see high numbers and a variety of raptors.
One of the highlights of the fall raptor migration is when broad-winged hawks move south. Where hawks are usually solitary during the summer, broad-winged hawks frequently move en masse during the fall migration; they form “kettles” numbering in the hundreds and then stream southward as they seek the next thermal. Broad-winged hawks are moving now; during the peak, thousands of hawks can be spotted during the day at some favorite locations.
Other raptors are moving as well. Many osprey start their trip in September, and a few American kestrel and sharp-shinned hawks are moving now. Next month will see many more sharp-shinned hawks as well as peregrine falcons, harriers, and merlins. Bald and golden eagles can be seen migrating as well in October.
Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest in New Jersey is just one of many good fall hawk migration observation locations. For good locations and the latest count data, visit hawkcount.org/.