Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Raptor Watch New Jersey - Montclair Hawk Watch

Montclair Hawk Watch
Montclair Hawk Watch

Because New Jersey is located along the Atlantic Flyway, we are in a great place to observe hawks heading south to their wintering grounds. This is the time when migrating birds of prey come through NJ in greater concentrations as they follow our ridges and coastline.

Raptors migrate from late summer through early December, but the numbers peak between mid-September and mid-October.I have read that the best days usually occur after a day that featured a cold front with northerly winds, and mornings and early afternoons are better than later in the day.

It is pretty awesome to watch them ride the thermals, wind currents and updrafts along the Hudson River Palisades to the Kittatinny Ridge along the Delaware River and down to Cape May.

You can get more information at the New Jersey Audubon Society and the Hawk Migration Association of North America websites.

This week, I walked up the stairs to the Montclair Hawk Watch (Essex County) a observation platform that is maintained by the NJ Audubon Society. From there, you can watch migrating birds move south along the first ridge of the Watchung Mountains. On a clear day, the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty are also in view.

The site is interesting atop a 500-foot basalt ledge on the First Watchung Mountain. There is a stone-filled platform at the top of a long staircase. They have recorded sightings of broad-winged hawks, bald eagles, American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, ospreys, merlins, sharp-shinned hawks, northern harriers, peregrine falcons and Cooper's hawks.

Directions: from the Garden State Parkway in Bloomfield, take exit 151 for Watchung Avenue and head west on Watchung to its end at Upper Mountain Avenue in Montclair, about 2.1 miles. Make a right turn and go north on Upper Mountain 0.7 miles to Bradford Avenue. Make a left turn and go up Bradford 0.1 miles to Edgecliff Road and make a right turn. Go up Edgecliff 0.2 miles and park on the shoulder (to avoid parking problems, please park well off the side of the road). The lookout path is on the south side of the road marked with a sign at the base of the steps.

Other places for watching:
  • Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, State Line Lookout - 527 feet above the Palisades.
  • Sunrise Mountain, Sussex County - the pavilion atop the mountain is located in Stokes State Forest in Branchville.
  • Chimney Rock, Somerset County in Washington Valley Park in Martinsville. This is the southern end of the Watchung Ridge that starts at the Montclair platform.
  • Raccoon Ridge in Blairstown is on the Kittatinny Mountains at an elevation of 1,563 feet and Scotts Mountain, also in Warren County at the Merrill Creek Reservoir in Washington.
  • Down at the tip of the state at Cape May Point State Park birds riding air currents from the surrounding Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay head south overhead.

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