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September 10, 2012

Audobon Society on watch for hawk migration

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — The annual southbound migration of birds through the upper Susquehanna region and the Catskills has begun, and with it comes the start of the local Audubon Society’s hawkwatch at the group’s wildlife sanctuary on Franklin Mountain near Oneonta.

This season marks the 24th consecutive year of counting raptors at the site, according to Andy Mason, co-president of the Delaware-Otsego Audubon Society. 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,” Mason said in a media release. “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 Saturday and Sept. 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, Pa., are among the best-known and most popular hawk watching sites, according to the release.

Franklin Mountain’s reputation is well-established in hawk-watching circles, Mason said.

“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 2005 with 252 birds, including a record daily count of 71 eagles.

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 4,609 raptors of 14 different species. “We’re hoping for another good season, if the weather cooperates,” Mason said, “but just the sight of one soaring eagle makes it all worthwhile.”

The DOAS sanctuary can be reached by following the signs from Southside Dr. and Swart Hollow Road in Oneonta. For further information on the Franklin Mountain Hawkwatch, contact Tom Salo at 965-8232 or salothomas@gmail.com; or Andy Mason, 652-2162, AndyMason@earthling.net, or visit www.franklinmt.org.