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Summer Day Getaway: Experience the Fall Migration of Birds of Prey at Hawk Mountain

by on July 19, 2014 7:00 AM

Hawk Mountain communications coordinator Mary Linkevich admits that when people hear the word “raptors,” they often think of Jurassic Park. For her, the term refers to an animal neither extinct nor flightless.

“Raptors” is a blanket term for various birds of prey that, much like their extinct namesakes, kill with their sharp and deadly talons. Only about two and a half hours away, the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania offers visitors the perfect opportunity to experience their resplendent airborne majesty. 

Because of the way the winds hit the nearby ridge, the sanctuary lies under the perfect corridor to watch the annual migration of these birds of prey.

“My favorite part of being here is watching someone see a hawk or an eagle up fly by up the lookout really closely, and they’re just amazed,” Linkevich says. “You could call it jaw dropping.”

With eight miles of trails – including a shorter one-mile trail to the expansive north lookout – and daily educational raptor programs, Hawk Mountain has been dropping visitor’s jaws for decades. 

Hawk Mountain was founded in 1934, in a time where no legal protections for these animals existed and hawk heads carried a bounty. After photos of dead hawks lining the forest floor become public, conservationist Rosalie Edge purchased the property and turned it into a largely undisturbed sanctuary for the assorted hawks and eagles.

“Hawk Mountain is different form other place in that we are a sanctuary versus a park,” Linkevich says. Because of the lack of things lack paved walkways or night lighting, the mountain remains a perfect home for these majestic birds as they begin their fall migration in August.

Since its founding, Hawk Mountain has also become an internationally recognized name in raptor research, education and advocacy. Linkevich says that since birds of prey gained legal protection in 1972, the sanctuary has undergone “a major change from a local to a global organization.”

Despite their work in the raptors’ winter home of South and Central America, Hawk Mountain still offers the perfect summer getaway for birdwatchers of all ages from all over Pennsylvania. A packed lunch and hiking boots are recommended, as is a love of nature.

For more information about Hawk Mountain and this year’s upcoming migration, visit their website at HawkMountain.org or call (610) 756-6961.

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Michael Martin Garrett is a general assignment reporter for StateCollege.com, a graduate of Penn State and a published poet. He's also a musician who plays bass in an indie rock band.
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