The Fall Raptor Migration
September 1, 2014

While the end of August means it’s back to school for most families, it is also the time when something very exciting is starting to happen in the world of raptors. It marks the start of their long fall migration from the Northeast to the South where over 10,000 hawks, falcons, and eagles will make their journey, soaring over the Appalachian Mountains. This raptor migration usually spans from mid-August through mid-December, but peak season is typically in October with numbers slowing in November.

Some tips for viewing raptors with kids

  • Make your hike a quiet one. Talk to children ahead of time about being respectful of other bird watchers as well as wildlife by keeping the noise level down.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and water. I know with my two kids, well-fed and hydrated hikers make happy hikers; be sure to make stops frequently to fuel up and drink some water.
  • Appropriate foot wear is a must. Hikes to the best views are up rocky and mountainous terrain and can be quite dangerous if you are not prepared. 
  • Be on the lookout for snakes. My family almost always see snakes when we’re on our way to watch the migrations. The rocky trails and overlooks that make for the best views of the hawks make perfect hangout spots for our little slithery friends.
  • Bring binoculars. Viewing migrating hawks is even more amazing if you can catch a glimpse of them up close.

 

There are a few prime locations around the Lehigh Valley to take your family to view these spectacular birds.

The best destination for taking your family to view the migration is most definitely Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton. In addition to the stunning views at Hawk Mountain, they have a visitor center that is open daily with a raptor gallery, bookstore full of all sorts of educational material, and a naturalist on hand to help you spot and identify the birds you will see gliding overhead. Hawk Mountain also has some fantastic educational events, including ones for children. Hawk Mountain can easily be done as a quick trip if you’d like, since the first scenic overlook is close to the parking area. Or if your family is planning for a longer adventure, you can add can other trails and overlooks to your adventure. Check out this post about a day at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

Pulpit Rock in Hamurg is another top pick for viewing the hawk migration. This is a much more difficult hike than Hawk Mountain, with steep inclines and rocky terrain, so discretion should be used. It is well worth it however, if you and your family are up for the journey. Once you arrive at the top, the panoramic views are amazing. Hiking to Pulpit Rock will take the better part of a day, especially with children so be sure to plan accordingly.

Bake Oven Knob, located near Germansville on the Blue Mountain Ridge, is another great viewing point of raptors and other migrating birds. Parts of the trail are rocky, but overall it is not a difficult hike. There are three viewing points at the top of Kittany Ridge but the South Lookout offers the best and most stunning views. One important note is that during hunting season, this area should be avoided since it is within state game lands.

 

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Feed the Birds: Set up a bird feeder (you can make a simple one by spreading peanut butter on a pinecone). See which types of birds come; have the kids keep a log of their visits.



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