For an NCIOS sanctioned field trip we had the privilege to have hawk expert Vic Berardi lead a hawk watch at Rock Cut State Park. Here’s a recap.
We began the day at Rock Cut State Park’s Olson Beach parking area. This is one of the highest points in the park and also one with a panoramic view of the open sky. To the north is a small man-made lake (Olson). The wind was blowing pretty hard from the northeast but we had a fairly successful day.
If you’ve never participated in a hawk watch we stay in one spot and observe all the migrating raptors that fly into view. However, many of the sightings are of distant specs and for non-hawk experts (like us) are extremely difficult to identify. But, with an expert like Vic and other supreme birders present, we were able to discern 61 raptors of 8 species:
- Osprey – 2
- Bald Eagle – 1
- Northern Harrier – 1
- Sharp-shinned Hawk – 6
- Cooper’s Hawk – 7
- Broad-winged Hawk – 7
- Red-tailed Hawk – 35
- Peregrine Falcon – 2
The biggest highlight for me were the two Peregrine Falcons. These were not only awesome birds to see but had the audacity to come really close (although both times when my camera was inexcusably inaccessible).
Overall, the weather was beautiful but cold and windy. Participating in such a count really helps to improve your birding skills. It is also pretty amazing just how many birds are on the move when you make a concentrated effort to find and identify them.
Note: I am a terrible hawk watcher but was awed by the skills of the pros and grateful for their informative insights into identification.