|Red-tailed hawk by skeeze|
Hawks are on their way south for the winter. You might spot them almost anywhere in New Jersey, but you have an excellent chance of seeing some at the NJ Audubon Montclair Hawk Lookout in Essex County. This is the Audobon's smallest sanctuary at 1 acre, but it is the second oldest continuous hawk watch in the nation.
I have climbed up there each fall for a good number of years since it is in my neighborhood.
It is a stone-filled platform atop a 500-foot basalt ledge on a ridge that borders Montclair and Cedar Grove that is part of the First Watchung Mountain. Coastal and ridge flying birds follow this first ridge west of the lower Hudson River Valley. It runs northeast to southwest.
Looking north across the road is Essex County Park, Mills Reservation. A concrete pad on that cliff is all that remains of what was once a tracking location that was part of the Nike missile system. That is the location for the Spring Hawk Count as it offers better visibility to the south as hawks return to the state.
The hawkwatch is manned for fall from September 1 through November 30 from 9am - 5pm. The spring watch is from March 16 to May 15.
"October may be the most interesting time to visit the Lookout, as it offers the greatest diversity of hawk species. Chances are now better to see Merlins or even a Peregrine Falcon or two. However, by mid-month the Broad-winged Hawk flight will be over for the season, as other species begin to peak. The Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawk will be most numerous at the end of the month."
NJ Audobon also has a Cape May Hawkwatch location.
For directions to the Montclair location: njaudubon.org/watches/montclair-hawk-watch/