Photo by Janice Brandine
For once, we can guarantee you'll see a Golden Eagle. In fact, you'll have three separate chances to see one on Saturday, November 10 with one-day-only eagle programs presented at 10 am, noon and 2 pm courtesy of our friends at Shaver's Creek Environmental Center.
This live raptor event is free and coincides with the peak of golden eagle migration at Hawk Mountain. A trail fee applies to those who visit the scenic overlooks.
Educators at Shaver’s Creek will present a live, non-releasable golden eagle in the Sanctuary’s Outdoor Amphitheater (indoors in event or rain) along with at least one owl and one hawk species to show adaptations among species.
The golden eagle is a true rarity throughout the northeast and an average 90 pass Hawk Mountain each autumn, the bulk during the first two weeks of November. Considered North America's largest predatory bird, the golden eagle sails by on plank-like wings that stretch more than seven feet and typically migrates alone, heading south on updrafts and thermals along the Kittatinny Ridge or “Blue Mountain.”
Northwest winds bring the most golden eagles, such as the 48 that passed Sunday, November 4, sailing on the winds that followed Hurricane Sandy.
Early November also is the best time to see both bald and golden eagles in the air on the same day, and visitors also can expect to see large numbers of red-tailed hawks, the Sanctuary’s third most numerous migrant. Red-shouldered hawks along with black and turkey vultures have started their steady exodus south, and days following a cold front are best for seeing all species.
Other migrants in early November include northern finches (also check the Visitor Center feeders!), purple finches and pine siskins, and loose flocks of common loons. Rarer birds include red crossbills and evening grosbeaks, both of which have been sighted every few days.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a prime observation point for autumn raptor migration because of its location along the easternmost edge of the Appalachian Mountains. Hawks that pass here use ridge currents for uplift like glider pilots on long-distance flights. In addition to birds of prey, hummingbirds, monarch butterflies, songbirds and waterfowl use the Appalachian Mountain Flyway. Some species follow the Appalachians to their end, before heading south to the coastal plains of eastern Mexico and falling out to the tropical forests of Central and South America. Biologists believe that the golden eagles that pass are moving south from nesting grounds in Quebec and the chilly, northern provinces of Canada. There are no documented golden eagle nests in the state of Pennsylvania.
The official Hawk Mountain raptor watch runs from August 15 to December 15. As the world’s first refuge for birds of prey, the Sanctuary boasts the longest-running database of hawk migration in the world. Visitors should wear sturdy shoes, dress in warm, layered clothing, and bring binoculars, something soft to sit upon, and a daypack. The Sanctuary has no trash receptacles on site and follows a carry in–carry out trash policy. Snack food and water are available for sale in the Visitor Center.
Trails to the lookouts are open daily from dawn to dusk. Weekday trail fees are $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for children 6-12. Weekend trail fees from September 1 through November 30 cost $8 for adults and seniors, and $3 for children 6-12. Trail fees include a variety of free weekend programs, which continue through November 18.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a non-profit, member-support organization located just seven miles north of I-78 near Hamburg (exit 29B). Memberships, starting at $40 for a family, provide free admission daily for up to one year. Trail fees and membership dues support the Sanctuary and its conservation programs.
Homepage photo by Photo by Raymond Salani III.