The beautiful, rustic visitor's center at Hawk Mountain in Kempton, Pennsylvania. Countless thousands of raptor enthusiasts have passed through these doors. Raptors, conservation, and Hawk Mountain are synonymous, and no place has become more steeped in legend than has the 2,600 acres that comprise this sanctuary.
Hawk mountain was an ENORMOUS gap in my list of travels, and it was indeed fulfilling to finally get there last weekend. As I usually do, I dug into the place, looking high and low, talking to staff, learning about the operation, and of course hawk-watched. It is a very impressive operation, completely privately funded, and their outreach work is amazing. I was inspired enough to join, and become one of the nearly 9,000 members.
These slaughters became so prolific that some authorities estimate that as many as 30-40% of the birds that were attempting to migrate long the Kittatinny were gunned down in especially bad years. This carnage took place in the early 20th century, a time when raptors were widely regarded as vermin, and their importance in ecosystems was poorly understood.
Historically, American Chestnut dominated in Appalachian forests, and its summertime blooming would turn mountain slopes whitish. An imported fungus known as Chestnut Blight was first found in New York in 1904, and the floodgates soon opened. By 1950, billions of trees had succumbed, and towering giants are almost unknown today. Sprouts, such as the one above, reach a certain height and are attacked, girdled, and killed by the blight.
Anyway, we are just about to the rocky embattlements of the North Lookout, where one can see for seventeen miles across ridge and valley on blue days. I'll be back with big birds soon.