Snickers Gap Hawk Watch is in need of volunteers, and we’re pretty sure you would LOVE such an extraordinary experience to view so many hawks!
Every fall, thousands of hawks migrate south, many of them following the Blue Ridge Mountains on their journey. There are several official hawk watches in Virginia which monitor their numbers from year to year. The closest location to those of us here in Loudoun County, manned solely by volunteers, is the Snickers Gap Hawk Watch, on the borders of Loudoun and Clarke Counties. 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 Gap 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. Some can be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars (and when possible, a tripod and telescope) can be required for identification.
The Snickers Gap Hawk Watch season officially begins September 1st and will continue until November 30th. At this time, volunteer site counters are needed since many days are still not covered. Both volunteers with experience and those willing to learn are most welcome and encouraged to take part in this fascinating citizen count effort. The Hawk Watch is a magnificent place to observe hawks, especially if you would like to learn to identify them. Volunteers are sure to find regular participants on the weekends, especially between 10am and 2pm, who take great pleasure in sharing their experience and knowledge.
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 Hawk Watch 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. Directions and a map can be found here at the Virginia.gov site online.
Report by Joe Coleman
Edited by Sarah Steadman