Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch 9/18/11

Almost everyone was expecting a good show of Broad-winged Hawks today, and there were lots of birders up at the hawk watch. It was sunny and clear in both the Rockfish and Shenandoah Valleys, but when I arrived at Afton Mountain a little after 9:00, fog had rolled in. I had already missed 600 Broad-winged Hawks that had lifted off earlier in the morning, and it looked like the fog might clear, so I walked up route 610 looking for warblers. Again, the fog and overcast skies made for grainy photos, but I did manage to see a couple of warblers.

Black-throated Green Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

The fog lifted a little later, but dark, heavy clouds remained over the mountain all day long, even though the valleys on both sides were sunny. Nevertheless, the day was remarkable. There were so many distant kettles of Broad-winged Hawks at the same time that no one could see all of them. By the end of the day, 10,830 raptors were counted at the hawk watch, including 10,766 Broad-winged Hawks.

Unlike the peak day last year, which also occurred on September 18 when the skies were sunny and there were kettles all around us and close by, only a few hawks came close to us, and most of the viewing was through binoculars.

One of the many kettles of Broad-winged Hawks

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk



Sharp-shinned Hawk

American Kestrel

I left about 4 p.m., and took the Blue Ridge Parkway over to Wintergreen Mountain. I stopped along the way at Hickory Springs overlook, and saw a few Cape May Warblers.

Cape May Warbler

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