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Nature Watch: Bring the Kids, Spot a Hawk

Want to see a bald eagle? You don't have to go to Alaska or coastal Maine. More than 230 bald eagles fly right over our heads here in Westchester and Fairfield counties during September and October. And they're just a small part of the thousands of raptors—birds of prey—who soar through our skies on their annual migration south.

More than 14,000 broad-winged hawks will pass over us during the two weeks starting around Sept. 9, winging it to Mexico. There, they will join a stream of about 2 million other broad wings flowing into the Amazon River basin for the winter season.

During this time it is not unusual for our local hawk-watch sites to see anywhere from 500 to 3,000 hawks on any given day. Spotters counted 7,000 of them in a day a couple of years ago. Our local record is 31,998 broad wings, seen on Sept. 15, 1995.

Huge numbers like that occur when hurricanes or other forms of weather push the hawks into a single migratory stream rather than the multiple streams they usually use. The annual raptor count is global, and is used to pinpoint locations where conservation might become necessary.

Where can you best see this spectacular flyover? Pack your binoculars and head for one of Audubon's Westchester or Fairfield County hawk-watch sites, listed below. The lawn chairs are comfortable, the conversation lively and new watchers welcome.

You'll not only get a good view of the birds as they pass, you'll also find someone on hand to help you tell an eagle from a hawk and a broad-winged hawk from the red-shouldered variety. They all look different in the air. When I hear someone exclaim, "Oh my god, I see them now, this is incredible," I know we've made another convert.

All the sites have special hawk days—great for kids and adults as well. Here's where you can view this amazing annual event:

In Fairfield County:

? Audubon's Greenwich Hawk Watch at 613 Riversville Road. Staff and volunteers are there every day through November. At the HawkWatch Festival & Green Bazaar on Oct. 1 and 2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., you'll hear a hawk identification talk and see live falconry demonstrations.

In Westchester County:

? Bedford Audubon , at the Arthur Butler Sanctuary, 265 Chestnut Ridge Road, Bedford Corners. It's staffed most days. A complimentary light breakfast will be served, along with a hawk talk, at 8 a.m. on Sept. 18. For late sleepers, it's 9 a.m. on Oct. 2 and Oct 13. Another talk, “Raptors for Rookies,” starts from the Westmoreland Sanctuary at 260 Chestnut Ridge Road on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m.

To register for either of the above events, call Adam Zorn at (914) 666-8448 or email him at azorn@bedfordaudubon.org. For more info, go to http://www.bedfordaudubon.org/events.html.

? Hudson River Audubon , at Lenoir Preserve on Dudley Street in Yonkers. Join the experts to help count the birds on Sept. 24 and 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Oct. 1, the hawk watch starts at 9 a.m., ending in a falconry demonstration at 1 p.m. For more info on this great place, go to http://www.hras.org .

John Hannan is director of development for Audubon in Connecticut and can be reached at jhannan@audubon.org.

Where have you gone raptor-watching? Where are the best places to see hawks and other birds of prey migrating? Leave a comment below.

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