The cool, crisp days of autumn are upon us, as is one of our region’s most spectacular bird events. Along our coastline and inland ridges, scores of hawks, eagles and falcons can be seen speeding toward more balmy southern climes on their annual fall migration.
Some species, such as the Broad-winged Hawk, fly all the way to the Amazon Basin, while others simply head to the Gulf states. Conversely, our most familiar species, the red-tailed hawk, is with us for the entire year. Other species, such as the bald eagle, both migrate through the area and winter locally, particularly along major bodies of water such as the Hudson and the Connecticut Rivers. Other hardy individuals of migratory species, such as the sharp-shinned hawk, may also stay close, living off of birds attracted to feeders when the weather is particularly rough.
While the tristate doesn’t display the staggering numbers of Hawk Mountain, Pa., or Cape May, N.J. (which are both worthwhile day trips), there are still several hotspots where large numbers can be seen.
Lighthouse Point State Park in New Haven is a fantastic coastal location with large hawk flights, and the hills of Trout Brook Farm and Greenwich Audubon, both in Connecticut, are also productive. Bedford Ridge in Westchester is a popular site, as is Hook Mountain along the Hudson in Rockland County.
In New Jersey, Montclair Hawk lookout produces good numbers of raptors, as does Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area.
At all of these locations, try to visit on a day with northwesterly winds or upon the arrival of a cold front, as the hawk migration will be greatest. Also, before setting out for the field, it's helpful to invest in an identification guide for raptors in flight. Many exhibit unique flight styles or plumage patterns, and an awareness of these will only enhance your hawk-watching experience.
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