Aiming for peak broad-winged hawk migration, the explorers club hit the road to visit Grandfather Mountain Hawk Watch. We arrived not a minute too early! As we were setting up shop on Linville Peak (across the swinging bridge), kettles began to form to the southeast. It was if the hawks were appearing out of thin air, rising from the forest canopy below. We had incredible views looking nearly directly down on the birds. They were taking advantage of the thermals forming on the southeast facing slope of the mountain and soaring right in front of us. They circled up and up in kettles of thirty or more birds until they reached cruising altitude and one by one they would peel off continue their journey south toward Central and South America.
As the day went on the birds came through higher and higher until the only way we could spot them was if they passed in front of the lone cloud in an otherwise bluebird sky. Noon passed and the migration began to come from the northeast where we relied on spotting scopes to pick out possible migrants. All told we counted over 540 birds of prey including broad-winged hawk, peregrine falcon, american kestrel, sharp-shinned hawk, coopers hawk, red-shouldered hawk and bald eagle!
Many thanks to the executive director of Grandfather Mountain, Jesse Pope, for hosting Blue Ridge Discovery Center and giving us the opportunity to participate in the hawk count.