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Audubon's Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch 35th SEASON UNDERWAY IN ONEONTA

Written By Editor on 8/22/23 | 8/22/23

The annual southbound migration of birds through the upper Susquehanna region and the Catskills has begun, and with it comes the start of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society's hawk watch at the group's wildlife sanctuary on Franklin Mountain near Oneonta.
    This season marks the 35th consecutive year of counting raptors at the site, according to Andy Mason, DOAS co-president.  The hawk watch is one of the prime spots in the eastern U.S. for observing some species in the fall.  "We get excellent numbers of red-tailed hawks and golden eagles," said Mason.  "Franklin Mountain is always near the top among hawk watches in the Appalachian region for those birds."
    The first wave of hawks is expected in the period between September 15 and 25, and should consist primarily of broad-winged hawks, one of the few hawks that travel in flocks.  Groups as large as several hundred birds have been spotted at other watches, according to Mason.  "We've never been lucky enough to see a spectacle like that," he said, "but we have had flights of 50 or 60 birds in view at a time."
    The data recorded at the Franklin Mountain site is submitted to the Hawk Migration Association of America, where it is combined with numbers from hundreds of other watches to provide a picture of raptor populations and movements across the continent.  Locations along the Appalachians such as Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania are among the best-known and most popular hawk watching sites.
    Franklin Mountain's reputation is well established in hawk watching circles, said Mason.  "We get 20 or 25 people on the mountain, particularly on a good day for golden eagles--a rare bird in the East," he said.  The peak for this large species is late October through November.  The site set its seasonal high for golden eagles in 2018 with 323 birds, including a record daily count of 128 eagles on Oct. 25.  
The Audubon sanctuary provides a panoramic view of the Susquehanna Valley and Oneonta--another draw in the fall, said Mason. 
    Last year's total count was 4366 raptors of 14 different species.  The best flights come on north or northwest winds, typically a day or two following passage of a cold front.  "We're hoping for another good season, if the weather cooperates" said Mason, "but just the sight of one soaring eagle makes it all worthwhile."
    Directions to the Franklin Mt. Hawkwatch and more information, including how to sign up for email alerts of anticipated good flights, can be found at www.franklinmt.org.
A bald eagle Soars over the Franklin Mt. Hawkwatch; Photo by Courtney Moore.

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