PSO Field Trip – Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, 11 Nov 2012

Nemesisbird’s Mike Lanzone and Alex Lamoreaux along with Chad Kaufman helped lead a field trip offered by The Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology to the  Allegheny Front Hawk Watch, Sunday Nov 11. The wind forecast was for south-east, light to moderate, and hopes for a day packed full of Golden Eagles filled the participants heads! Although some of the group went directly to the watch, the official meeting point was at Reel’s Corners just south of Central City, PA. Those who met there were rewarded with a flock of 18 Red Crossbills that alighted on a nearby spruce allowing for some great looks.

Part of the group of 18 Red Crossbills that flew in at Reels Corner, PA!
Photo by Jean Miller

After arriving at the hawk watch things were fairly slow. Although the wind was out of the east, it wasn’t strong enough to get a lot of birds into the air. The down time gave the Nemesis Bird crew some time to get setup to stream a live video feed from the watch site. This was the first time we tried to do this from this location and the network was spotty enough it was hard to stream continuously, but it allowed for some live feeds throughout the day which can be seen here. An example of one of the live streams is below. This may be the first time anyone has streamed live migrating raptors through a scope from a hawk watch!!

After the wind picked up a bit some eagles started to come by. Some of them allowed for some very close views which is what the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch is famous for! It was certainly hard for Mike to stay filming when close eagles were coming by instead of lifting his camera to take pictures!!

Golden Eagle coming by at eye-level which allowed for great looks by the PSO group!
Photo by Alex Lamoreaux

Soon other species started to come by including a few Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk and several Sharp-shinned Hawks. Limited numbers of finches were around, likely due to the lack of wind. Typically northerly winds are better for lots of finch flyovers. A few White-winged Crossbills were below the watch and two Red Crossbills flew over heading; neither allowed good looks. Even Pine Siskins were scarce, and only a single bird flew over the watch. Several other groups of finches flew by far out that were not ID’ed. Overall a great day shared by over 70 people!! Scroll down for more photos and a complete report-

Adult male Northern Harrier
Photo by Alex Lamoreaux

One of the two Sharp-shinned Hawks that came by
Photo by Alex Lamoueaux

Adult Red-tailed Hawk
Photo by Alex Lamoueaux

Merlin came by the watch fairly close in the afternoon.
Photo by Malcolm Harter

Eagles come by very close to the watch site, this is what makes the Allegheny Front a great place to see Golden Eagles in the fall!!
Photo by Malcolm Harter

Here is the “official” field trip report-

Hello all,

On 11/11/12, the PSO had its 3rd field trip of the fall to a hawk watch and this time it was to Allegheny Front near the Bedford & Somerset county lines.

Over 75 people showed up that day with most saying there were there for the field trip in one way or another.

We started off the day with some of us meeting at the parking lot near Subway where route 30 and 160 meet. While talking there, Mike Lanzone heard some Red Crossbills flying overhead and they landed in an evergreen tree. 18 were seen with males, females and first winter males in the flock. All of us got had good looks with our bins and we got brief looks at them in scopes before they flitted away. Jean & Craig Miller got some pictures of them as well. Some of the group had them as lifers as these aren’t a common bird to get anytime, but this winter seems to have both crossbill species being seen and heard across the state. This sighting was the first I had them for the state of PA, so it was already a great day in my mind.

We made our trek up to the hawkwatch from the west side and some of the others in our group were already there. Alex Lamoreaux and Anna Fasoli stayed overnight after doing some Northern Saw-whet Owl banding, in which they had 3 from the mist nets.

While the winds were out of the preferred direction, the flight never materialized to what we hoped it would be. We did have 7 Golden Eagles that were seen by most of the participants, many providing great looks. We also had a beautiful male Northern Harrier flap its way past us, some Red Tailed Hawks, a late Merlin, Sharp Shinned Hawks and a single Red Shouldered Hawk.

Other birds of note were
– a lone Ring Billed Gull that had some of us in the group trying to make it into something exotic as a remnant of Hurricane Sandy.
– 2 separate Rock Pigeons with one having bands on it, confirmed by Alex’s camera.
– several flyby Common Ravens got people excited at times.
– Eastern Bluebird was seen and heard with 1 individual making a pass at the fake owl, landing on it, then trying to land on the weather pole.
– flyover American Pipits, Purple Finch, White-winged Crossbills and Red Crossbills.

Another highlight was getting a sneak preview of the 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas that Bob Mulvihill had along with him. The book is big, beautiful and comes in weighing 6 pounds. I went online last night and ordered myself one and some for my amish friends who don’t have working computers.

We did have a view of the valley that went forever, but there was some haze in the distance that wasn’t there the first time I was out, but still a great day was had by many. For some attendees this was the first time to the Front. It was a bit of a reunion for some of us to see old friends and match up some faces to names we see here and there. This is the final field trip for me this year and I just enjoyed how easy and quick it was to get a group of birders together at a hawkwatch to enjoy the fresh air, the camaraderie and see what birds were to be had that day. The next field trip I will probably get together will be in the spring at Tussey Mountain in Centre County for the spring migration of raptors, namely Golden Eagles, watch for news of that in the various forms of media we now have for the birding community.

I want to thank those who have joined any of the field trips as well as those who are “with” the hawkwatches for the success we have had so far with PSO field trips.  These trips have allowed first timers or beginners to feel more comfortable getting to these places, feel part of a group, be instructed on how they work, the markers to look for incoming birds, not have to feel bad asking questions, etc.  We all had to learn and everyone made their first visit to these places at one time in the past.  These trips also gave others, reasons to take off work, get away and/or just enjoy the day.

We have left these trips to be available to anyone, even non-members of PSO.  while we would love to have more people join, and some have already, it isn’t required.  If you have any questions about these trips, PSO, etc, please feel free to contact me.  If I can’t answer it for you, I will get the answer or get you in contact with someone who can.

Chad Kauffman
Mifflintown, PA

Rock dove flying past the watch, we saw two that had bands, possibly someones racing pigeons.
Photo by Alex Lamoreaux