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Lehigh Gap Nature Center Welcoming Volunteers for Annual Hawk Count | WDIY Local News

A hawk stands on the ground in a grassy field.
Joshua J. Cotten

A local nature center is calling on bird lovers to participate in its upcoming hawk watch.

The Lehigh Gap Nature Center said that it is welcoming new volunteers to join its counting team, in preparation for the upcoming Bake Oven Knob Autumn Hawk Watch.

According to social media post, the annual count will run from Aug. 15 until the end of November.

Perched on their high point along the Kittatinny Ridge, or Blue Mountain, team members will count birds of prey daily during daylight hours across the four-month timeframe.

These observations will be reported to the Hawk Migration Association of North America, to help scientists study bird populations and migration patterns.

This long-term endeavor is part of the Kittatinny Raptor Corridor Project, and the LGNC said on average, its count team records over 10,000 birds of prey each autumn.

For those interested in participating, the center will hold an informational Zoom session on Aug. 9 from 7-8:30 p.m.

The LGNC said it will highlight the history of the hawk count and opportunities to volunteer, review how the raptor counts are conducted, and provide bird identification tips.

The center said participants may volunteer as little or as much as they like during the counting window, and that they do not need to be experienced birders or hawk watchers to contribute.

Those interested in attending the Zoom session or getting involved with the Bake Oven Knob Hawk Count Team should email LGNC Director Chad Schwartz at chad.schwartz@lgnc.org.

According to the center, the raptors tallied at Bake Oven Knob include:

  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)
  • Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus)
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  • Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
  • Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
  • Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperi
  • Northern Goshawk (Accipiter genetilis)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk. (Buteo platypterus)
  • Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus)
  • Golden Eagle (Aquila chryseatos)
  • American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius)
  • Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Several rare species include:

  • Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis)
  • Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsonii)
  • Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus)

The Pennsylvania Game Commission says the Bake Oven Knob Autumn Hawk Watch is one of the longest running raptor migration studies in the world.
According to the LGNC, the annual hawk watch was started in 1961 by Donald S. Heintzelman, who directed the count for 37 years before retiring after the 1997 season.

He previously served as a “ridge runner,” monitoring the area for the illegal killing of raptors.

The LGNC’s hawk count manual says that in the 19th and 20th centuries, raptors were considered to be a threat to poultry and game birds. Gunners regularly shot at the birds of prey as they flew along the Kittatinny Ridge.

In 1934, conservationist Rosalie Edge established the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and hired Maurice Broun, named the “Father of Hawkwatching,” to staff it and stop the shooting.

In 1957, a state law was passed protecting all hawks during their migration months of September and October in northeastern Pennsylvania.

(Original air-date: 8/7/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.