Looking for hawks and other raptors

On November 5, 2011, I went in the late afternoon to Waggoner’s Gap, a place where route 74 crosses Blue Ridge Mountain (part of the Allegheny Mountains) northwest of Carlisle, PA.

The Gap is the location for a Hawk Watch every fall. Volunteers scan the skies constantly for raptors that ride the air currents along the mountain as the birds fly south for the winter.

The watching area is a rugged spot, a pile of huge rocks.

Many of the watchers have sophisticated and expensive spotting scopes. I have only my binoculars, so I am a bit handicapped in seeing birds in detail as they move surprisingly fast along the ridge.

Here is a view looking south from the Gap into Cumberland Valley, also known as the Great Valley.

And a more close-up view looking in the same direction.

And another view looking north.

The record keeper told me that so far this season they have logged sightings of 9,800 Sharp-shinned hawks and 18,000 Broad-winged hawks.

I went to the Gap in hope of seeing a golden eagle, which would be a new species for my life list of birds I have seen. The watchers told me they had seen two that morning, but in the time I was there, only about an hour, no goldens appeared.

This eagle is not exactly golden in any major way, but the feathers on the back of the head and neck have a golden hue, as you see in this image, which I found on line and which seems to have no copyright protection.

You can go to the world-wide web and find many other images of golden eagles. The other ones I found were copyrighted, so I cannot include them here.

The golden eagle is very large and generally dark in color and can be mistaken for a Turkey vulture.

These birds spend the summer in northern Canada and Alaska, and the winter in various scattered locations in the southeast.

Have any of my readers ever seen a golden eagle?

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