In the fall, thousands of migrating raptors, representing as many as 18 different species, stream along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains or down the Atlantic coast on their way south. Straddling eastern Pennsylvania’s Kittatinny Ridge is Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a 2,380-acre preserve established in 1934 as the world’s first refuge devoted to birds of prey. The sanctuary’s North Lookout, a 1,521-foot high rocky promontory, provides a spectacular panorama of the Appalachian ridges and valleys, and, depending on wind patterns, often affords close-up views of raptors gliding along Hawk Mountain’s unique ridge topography.
Cape May, New Jersey, at the tip of a peninsula between Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, is another premier raptor viewing site and is famous for its songbirds as well. While traveling between these two birding “hot spots,” we will visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on Delaware Bay, to see waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds, and take the ferry across the bay from Lewes, Delaware to Cape May. Late September and early October brings the greatest variety of raptor species, not to mention a very good passerine migration, and the bonus of crisp, cool fall weather and colorful autumn leaves.
Some of the Birds We Hope to See
Raptors, including Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, American Kestrel, Osprey and Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle; and a large number of resident and migrating passerines, such as Scarlet Tanager, 15+ species of Warbler, Several Vireos, waterfowl, waders, and shorebirds – all in all, a great selection of birds along the Eastern coast of North America.