Hook Mountain has a trail accessible off of Route 9W, the trail is rocky and steep. It is not a long hike to the top, but for those who are not good with hills, this hike may be challenging. With leaves already falling from some trees, the marked paths (I followed the yellow marked trees) can at times be slippery. Just wear a good pair of shoes or boots, and take your time, being mindful of where you put your feet. Chipmunks will greet you along the way, and if you're lucky, you may see some deer.
This time of year is big for migration, birds are making their way from their breeding grounds to where they will remain for the winter (Mexico, Central, and South America). Not only do little song birds get a move on, but raptors, birds of prey, need to move too, especially as much of their food (the little birds) fly south!
Hook Mountain provides a clear space to view hawks and other raptors as they move from the North, pass overhead, and continue South. Devoted locals and visitors compile data of the birds each year passing over The Hook, and have been doing so since the 1970's. Much of that data can be viewed on the Hook Mountain Hawk Watch website. I had the pleasure of viewing birds today with Trudy, the maintainer of the site, and Drew another devoted naturalist. I spent over 6 hours on top of Hook Mountain today and in that time learned much about the birds we watched, the ecology of the area, the history of the area, and the geography. It was an awesome experience, and the totals for the day (migrants only) can be viewed on the HMHW site and my totals (I counted all views) on ebird.
The total number of birds for the day was well over 100, and just for broad wing hawks, over 150!
|On the way up, the tree just to the left of the middle has a yellow dot, a trail marker that leads you both up to the top from 9W and back. This isn't even the steepest parts of the trail.|
|Soon, we started seeing broad wings, they seem to have these wings that are nicely boarded by black and a white band across the tail, when viewed from below. Immatures, look a bit darker than the mature birds.|
|We viewed two main types of hawks today, buteos (like this broad wing and red tails) and accipiters (like Cooper's and sharp-shinned). Buteos has larger wings and these wide shorter tails.|
|Between birds, we saw mantis fly into the grasses atop the mountain, ID'd butterflies, song birds, or just talked about our collection of wildlife stories.|
|My husband says there has been a faux owl on top of the Hook for years, well today I learned how that owl proves useful... Sharp Shinned hawks despise owls. Apparently red tails go for it too!|
|More between birds wildlife, a black swallowtail. We also saw some migrating monarch butterflies, ABOVE us on the mountain! They really get high up!|
|A black vulture, which hold their wings more horizontal than turkey vultures. They are also identifiable, because they have lighter color under their wing tips, and sometimes dangle their feet in flight.|
|Quiz yourself- black or turkey vulture?|
|Another sharp-shinned hawk flies by inspecting the owl. Unlike the broad wings, sharpies are accipiters, unlike buteos, they have stubbier wings, for flight through the forest to hunt smaller birds. They also have a longer tail.|
|One last mantis, and after over 6 hours in the sun, its time to go.|