By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant September 19, 2009
It’s just a hawk. It looks rather unremarkable and you’d probably not give it a long look like you’d accord a majestic Bald Eagle or Peregrine Falcon.
But this species of hawk, the Broad-winged, holds a special secret. Each September, these normally-solitary woodland hawks head southward on their migration to wintering grounds in South America. Taking advantage of thermals(warm updrafts of air) created on sunny days, the hawks rise up in the sky in tight circles, soaring on their broad wings and then gliding slowly southward until they pick up another thermal.
It’s kind of like riding a long series of elevators in the sky, to equate a human convenience to a hawk’s method of long-distance travel.
As each kettle was spotted, short statements like “That’s crazy!”, “Oh my Gosh”, and “They can’t all be hawks!” issued from the wide-open mouths of stunned observers. Could there really be this many Broad-winged Hawks? And how many could we not see that were too high or just over the next hill?
At the end of the day, when the clock struck 5:30pm we called an end to the day of Broad-winged madness. Sunburned eyes and dizzy heads could finally rest.
The final count? 3,263 Broad-winged Hawks. More than anyone at the hawk watch today had ever seen. Or ever fathomed.
Guess what? Today, another hawk watch just 50 miles to the north tallied 7,525 Broad-wingeds! Just when you think you’re doing well…
All photos by Derek Stoner