I can’t believe that I had never been to a hawkwatch event! These events occur every year, usually from August through early December when hawks begin to migrate South for the winter (check your local hawkwatch for exact dates).
Above is the view from Hawk Hill in the Marin headlands north of San Francisco where the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO) has been organizing these events since 1986 (click on photos for full sized images).
As I walked up the hill to the observation area, I was met by a friendly gentleman who welcomed me. Having checked their latest tallies from the recent days on their website, I asked him if they had seen any Broad-winged Hawks (Buteo platypterus). He said, “Not yet but we expect to.”
Not five minutes later, two Broad-winged Hawks appeared right in front of us and flew over our heads!
San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge photos by Larry Jordan
I didn’t realize until I did some background research on GGRO for this post that the gentleman who greeted me was none other than Allen Fish, the first and still GGRO director since 1985!
He was busy organizing the volunteer counters that were up on the hill Saturday morning when I arrived at about 10:00 am but even so, he took the time to welcome me to the event. Here is a shot of some of the counters and visitors atop Hawk Hill.
I clicked away as the juvenile Broad-winged Hawks danced above our heads, soaring in the light air currents on this beautiful day. After all, this is a life bird for me!
You see, these hawks are predominately found in the Eastern U.S. where, during fall migration, they can be seen in flocks or “kettles” in the thousands. They are a “rare but regular” migrant through the western U.S., along the California coast, and north to British Columbia1.
On this particular day, the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory had 662 sightings of 12 species in six hours! Those numbers include 27 Broad-winged Hawks!
The longitudinal breast streaking and multiple dark brown tail bands identify this as a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk.
It certainly made my day!
To see more great bird photos, check out The Bird D’pot and Wild Bird Wednesday!
References: 1Birds of North America Online