We all stared at the flat blue expanse of the firmament. Not a cloud, not a wisp, heck, very few contrails even. We battled eye floaties, crinks in our necks, and sunburn hoping today was the big one; when the flow of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks would come down from their summer forest homes in the north. We got excited by a plane or a vulture, to use as a point of reference. We strained to ID distant tiny specks, hurried to count swirling kettles before the birds started to peel away, setting their wings for a drive south. These are the hard days when a lot of eyes trained to the sky helps.
Luckily for me, lots of people showed up at the Mount Peter Hawk Watch today. In addition to the other sharp-eyed counters, we had almost 12 members of the Fyke Nature Association come for a field trip. Chief among them was Stiles Thomas, who established the Hawk Watch in 1958.
According to the history section of the Mt. Peter page on HawkCount! “The Montclair Bird Club of NJ sponsored the ‘Across the State Hawk Watch of 1958’. The two day watch on September 28 and October 18 produced 349 raptors of 10 species for Mount Peter and enough excitement to propel volunteers into a full-time count.” There has been someone standing on this mountain doing just this thing for over 50 years. Imagine.
Let me give you a glimpse of the spectacle overhead. Although many birds were high, some did come right over the platform, giving us fabulous views. Brilliant sunshine streamed through feathers to the appreciative croons of the watchers.
This is what we had gathered to see. Although there were only 346 pass overhead today, there were 1312 yesterday and more are gathering to the north for another push south tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that until they are all safely basking in the warmth of a South American Spring.