If you have ever spent any time around me at a hawk watch, you would know that every raptor that flies by gets me very excited. It doesnt matter if its the 500th Broad-wing of the season or the 60th Sharp-shinned Hawk of the day….each bird that migrates past is new and exciting in its own way. But, nothing compares to scanning out in front of you and landing your eyes on an incoming Golden Eagle. Long dark wings, bright golden shoulders, and a golden nape headed straight for you. You jump to a scope and are able to see the intensity in the eyes of the Eagle – it’s headed south and nothing is going to stop it.
This time of the year is peak Golden Eagle migration, as the birds travel down from coastal Canada, where they breed, to the Southern Appalachians, where they winter. Central Pennsylvanian Hawk Watches get some of the best Golden Eagle counts in the country, and one watch in particular, the Allegheny Front in Bedford County is exceptionally good. This year has seen a somewhat lower count than usual since its been primarily West winds all season, and the Front needs East winds, but still, there season total is at 87 so far. I have been spending quite a bit of time at the Front this season and luckily I was there last Saturday, the 13th, when a total of 17 Golden Eagles migrated past the site. The wind was coming out of the East and the Goldens were tight along the ridge, passing the site only a few hundred feet out, some passing straight overhead and then stopping to soar above us. Below are some photos I took last Saturday of the Golden Eagles, and a Red-tailed Hawk, and a Northern Harrier that flew past.