Seventeen enthusiastic people enjoyed a visit on September 16 to the Snicker’s Gap Hawkwatch, an official site of the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). The group gathered under the leadership of Joe Coleman and Bruce Hill, assisted by Larry Meade. Even before we were out of our cars, kettles of Broad-winged Hawks were rising over the mountain to continue their long migration south.
In addition to the hawks, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, two flocks of Cedar Waxwings, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and a couple Common Ravens flew over the parking lot, while numerous American Goldfinches visited the large puddles right in front of the group. A beautifully-colored Blackburnian Warbler briefly gleaned insects in a sycamore tree right behind us.
Every fall thousands of hawks take advantage of the winds over the Blue Ridge Mountains to fly south to their winter homes with the Broad-winged flight in mid-September being the largest. Jon Little, the official HMANA counter, gladly answered the group’s many questions about what we were seeing, and how he was able to identify the many distant raptors. In addition to the 311 Broad-wings, the group saw a few Bald Eagles, an Osprey, two Sharp-shinned Hawks, and several Red-tailed Hawks (some of whom were migrating but some were residents and, therefore, not counted). The group didn’t count the numerous Black and Turkey Vultures who flew by because so many vultures are resident in the area. While the group was there, 21 Monarchs on their long flight south also flew over the hawkwatch.
Some of the participants took a break to walk up to the Bears Den rocks and take in the beautiful views of the Shenandoah Valley. Several warblers, including Worm-eating, Black-throated Green, and Blue-throated, were seen in the forest between the parking lot and the rocks.