Every autumn a group of dedicated hawk watchers around the country climb mountain tops or any elevated location that provides an open view of the sky to witness sometimes impressive concentrations of migrating hawks.
Here in Massachusetts there are some tried and true locations to see these diurnal migrants – notably Mount Tom in Holyoke, Mount Wachusett in Princeton and Mount Watatic in Ashburnham. So why not our own Mount Auburn, after all during their migration, hawks are moving and can be seen anywhere.
There is a key to a successful fall hawk migration day and is strongly guided by the weather. In the fall you see more hawks on the day of and up to one or two days after the arrival of a cold front. This type of weather will produce thermals of air where the birds enter and swirl upward sometimes rising out of sight. The birds at any given moment will leave the thermal heading off in a string or river of hawks heading south.
The Broad-winged Hawk is by far the most numerous, migrating in flocks that include several individuals to several thousand birds. Up to 20,000 have been seen on a single day at Mount Wachusett! At Mount Auburn, the best time to look for migrating hawks is in September, and the peak numbers generally are noted at mid-month. Though I’ve never made a concentrated effort to conduct a dedicated hawk watch, I did record 31 Broad-winged Hawks on September 14, 1994. What a wonderful way to spend a fall day atop the Washington Tower counting hawks!
Photo of Broad-winged Hawk by Jeremiah Trimble