Birds of prey are soon headed your way, scheduled to cross through Virginia airspace in their annual migratory flight to South America. Visitors and locals alike won’t want to miss this exciting yearly occurrence. Peak migration typically occurs in the final two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October.
Though broad-winged hawks are among the most common raptors that migrate through Shenandoah, more than a dozen other species also make use of the Appalachian migration corridor each autumn, such as sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and golden eagles. American kestrels (small birds in relation to most raptors), peregrine falcons, northern harriers, and others fly south through this area, too.
A fabulous place to hawk-watch is Rockfish Gap, where Shenandoah National Park’s Skyline Drive meets the Blue Ridge Parkway. More than 25,000 raptors migrate through Rockfish Gap each fall; you might see as many as 10,000 hawks in a single day!
A small cluster of local birdwatching volunteers known as Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch heads up a migrating hawk count each autumn at Rockfish Gap from August 15 to November 30. Visitors and amateur hawk-spotters are welcome. Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is one of over 200 hawk watch sites in North America monitored by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA).
This viewing site is easy and accessible – simply drive up, park, and hawk watch. Look for watchers on the grounds of the former Inn at Afton (elevation 2,000 ft), just off Interstate 64 at exit 99, a few miles east of Waynesboro.
For more information on how you can be part of the fall raptor migration count visit Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch’s website.
Don’t miss your chance to witness the amazing natural spectacle of raptor migration over the Shenandoah Valley! Plan your visit today!