Hawk Mountain is
exactly what its title describes, a large mountain with
hawks and other raptors. Though the long car ride
wouldn’t be classified as “fun” in my opinion, the sites
I saw when I got to Hawk Mountain were quite
magnificent. It was a warm fall day when we went there.
We were excited to be there and couldn’t wait to hike
the mountain. On our way in we didn't see many
birds because it was near the end of their migration and
the wind was coming from a direction that slowed
We took a minute to clown around with Hawk Mountain's
giant statue. [Picture to the right.]
The first place we went to get some
information was at the information center, which included a gift
shop filled with books, stuffed animals and lots of
knick-knacks. We loved looking at things like that. When we
walked down a short flight of stairs and looked up, we saw many
modeled birds “flying” above. On one of the walls, there was a
huge demonstration with lights that showed different
migration paths of whatever raptor you chose. For example, if
you chose the
Red-tailed Hawk, you would click on the Red-tailed Hawk button and its migratory route would light up on the large
Then we had to get to our next activity. We went
hiking on one of Hawk Mountain’s trails to a look out on a long
ledge. The sight in front of us was beautiful. The leaves were
red and orange and a beautiful river ran through the valley.
However, we didn’t see any raptors right away. We talked to the
volunteers that worked there about birds they saw that day and
surprisingly, they did see many interesting raptors earlier that
day. We couldn't wait until we saw some, too!
The next demonstration was about binoculars. The volunteer
how to use binoculars, adjust them, and and see objects with
was actually kind of interesting. We focused our
binoculars on the sign to the left.
We had to walk all the way down the mountain, across the
road, and into another section of the woods to get to
the next demonstration.
Everyone sat on benches and soon it was standing room
only! We were surprised to see that so many other
people were interested in raptors, too!
Our presenter talked about what raptors are and the
history of Hawk Mountain. Hawk Mountain used to be a place where
hunters would come and actually kill the raptors and other birds that
flew by. Luckily, before it was too late, Mrs. Edge and Maurice Broun turned it into a safe place for raptors. It has a sad
story with a happy ending.
We saw a Red-tailed Hawk and a
Great Horned Owl. We knew that the “horns” were
just how the Great Horned Owl looked when he was scared or angry
and stuck up his feathers. But we didn’t know that this
owl could actually squeeze 4,000 pounds of pressure per square
inch when a
strong man can squeeze only 400 pounds per square inch! On
top of that, we found that the owl could not move his eyes in
his sockets. He needs to turn his head just to see things that
we could see by turning our eyeballs. A comparison was made
between the size of the owl's eyes to his body size. If you made
the same comparison with a human body size, our eyes would be as
big as grapefruits!
One of the most
important things about Hawk Mountain isn't how pretty it
is or how much we learned by the demonstrations.
The most important thing is that they do bird counting there. You might think that bird counting
isn't important, but it is. Bird counts are used to keep
track of how many birds are in migration or nesting. Sometimes the numbers that they get show them that there are
problems for some birds.
An example of this is in our interview with Mr. John
Sauer, a Research Wildlife Biologist for the USGS Patuxent
Wildlife Research Center. He said that experts can tell if
there are less broad-winged hawks (just for example) because
less are migrating.
Bird counters write down
how many birds they see each day on charts like the one to the
right. If they notice that there are a whole lot less
birds migrating, they try to find out why. This may be the
first time that people recognize a problem so it's a very
important part of Hawk Mountain. The bird numbers that
they get are used all over the country.
Now it was time to hike one of the longer trails with
my family. To describe the trail a little bit better, let me
tell you that I couldn’t have asked for a better day. It was
neither hot nor could, and there was a gentle breeze. The sun
was peeking through the trees and, since it was the middle of
autumn, the leaves were changing color and starting to fall.
This made the ground crunch under your feet with each step you
took. Though the hike wasn’t necessarily difficult, it was
energy exerting and very steep. The view at the top was
incredible, and the trees below looked like different colored
stepping stones for you to race across the valley to the
mountain on the other side of the valley. Of course in reality,
if you fell you would die, but luckily that didn’t happen to any
of us. We did manage to spot a few birds once we got up there.
Finally our wish had come true at Hawk Mountain! We saw
raptors! They looked so strong and graceful above us.
Hawk Mountain was a great experience. We learned so
much and it was so fun… especially the long hike! Just one
suggestion though: If you do have a chance to go there and hike
the mountain, make sure you bring your binoculars! Come to
think of it, a camera might help too!
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