For those of you keeping track of this type of thing, we (The Birdnerds) did not get to Hawk Mountain last year at all. After probably 20+ years of annual pilgrimage to the world's first hawk sanctuary, we just didn't make it there. We didn't go there even though they engraved a bench at the ampitheater with my Dad's name - thanks to the generosity of people who donated on his behalf when he died. We still didn't go. Well, we couldn't stand for that 2 years in a row, now could we? No. We went on Saturday. I had a 102 degree fever and strep throat, but we went anyway.
Lori and I were at the parking lot at 7:15 AM because we know that Hawk Mountain is really "Warbler Mountain" in the fall. We were hoping for early morning songbirds and found them at South Lookout almost right away. We also had a close encounter of the Sharpie variety while agonizing up the rocky trail. We heard and saw about 6 Blue Jays squawking and darting at something. We heard the ferocious call of the Sharp-shinned Hawk (more like a squeeking mouse really) and saw the hawk trying to avoid the Jays by flying in and out of the trees all around us. Pretty neat. That lasted a good 20 minutes - which is the amount of time it took us to move about 200 yards due to my diminished capacity (feeling sorry for me yet?).
Up on North Lookout, there were pretty much no hawks. This is typical of our recent trips. Beautiful day, light winds, no hawks. We sat there and sat there. Nothing. Then, along came really nice sight - my 10 year old nephew Brendan with giant binoculars ready to see some birds (along with Di, Barbara, and our new nerd Amy). It's a good thing Brendan showed up because the hawks started to show up too! We got really great views of 3 Bald Eagles, a Kestral, and a Merlin. The Merlin circled us a few times just to make sure we all got a good look. 2 of the Eagles locked talons for a few seconds and spun around in mid-air as if to show off. We also saw plenty of Broad-winged Hawks soaring by. Here is the link to the day's total Brendan did a great job with his binoculars. I think he studied before the trip (some of the Birdnerds should try that approach sometime). I hope Brendan continues to join us on our annual trip.
If you haven't been to Hawk Mountain - you should go. It's a pilgrimage that all birders need to take at least once. The history of raptor conservation starts here, it's a terrific day of hiking, and the hawkwatching isn't bad either - unless the Birdnerds are there, so go on another day.
Here are some photos of Red-tailed Hawk from a previous trip to Hawk Mountain: