Every fall thousands of hawks migrate south, many of them following the Blue Ridge Mountains on their journey. There are several official hawkwatches in Virginia which monitor their numbers from year to year. The closest one, manned solely by volunteers, is the Snickers Gap Hawkwatch, on the border of Loudoun and Clarke County. It is affiliated with the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA), which compiles the migration data of over 200 such sites located in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Typically, about 12,000 raptors are counted at Snickers each season. The highest seasonal count was just shy of 41,000 in 2011. The birds are generally observed traveling in a southwesterly direction either directly over the ridge line or just off to either side, at varying heights and distances depending on weather conditions. Many can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars are required for identification and, when possible, age and sex.
The Snickers Gap Hawkwatch season has officially begun and will continue until December 1. As a volunteer site counters are needed as many days are still not covered. Both volunteers with experience and those willing to learn are welcome. The Hawkwatch is also a great place to observe hawks and learn how to identify them especially on weekends.
If you are interested, contact Joan Boudreau or Bob Abrams at 703-734-1238 or firstname.lastname@example.org or just come on up (if no one is watching when you arrive start counting!). The Hawkwatch is about 10 minutes west of Purcellville where Route 7 crosses the Loudoun-Clarke County line and the Appalachian Trail (AT) near Bluemont. The watch is adjacent to the highway (take a left at the top of the ridge on Rte 601 and an immediate right into the parking lot) and is conducted from the parking lot serving both commuters and AT hikers.