Hawk Watch at Carter Hill with NH Audubon

Posted on by Kathie Fife

Update 09-14:  Please stop by the NH Audubon, McLane Center in Concord through October 23rd to view my art exhibit, and my new book, “Nature Journal – Exploring the New Hampshire Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries”.  The show and book includes images from Hawk Watch, as well as nine other NH Audubon properties large panoramic views, macro images of plants and insects, and interesting and unique natural treasures one may find when visiting the properties. The book is available to view in the Nature Store. Partial proceeds from the sale of my art support the mission of NH Audubon.

How many different species of hawks can you identify? What’s the difference between an accipiter, falcon, and raptor? Can you tell what it is when it’s soaring high above? Flap, flap – glide. What does that tell you about the bird?

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH

If you head over to Carter Hill Orchard and take a walk up to the observation deck, you will be greeted by friendly NH Audubon staff and volunteers (who are well trained, and wow, do they know hawks!!). Pick up a pair of loaner binoculars hanging on the railing and take a look out along the ridge line and clouds. (The panoramic view is just gorgeous).

THERE! Above Mt Kearsarge! Large bird soaring a half glass up. Hunh? No worries – the experts will help you locate exactly where to find hawks spotted in the sky. And believe me, once you get the hang of it, you will feel a rush. That’s a bald eagle! Wow! And there’s another, over there above the tower!

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH.  Demonstrating how hawks use their wings in the wind.

Robert has volunteered for Audubon for a long time. He didn’t realize he was all that interested in hawks, or raptors, until he climbed up a mountain to watch the annual hawk migration with the best hawk watcher in the country. Robert was looking for a way to experience life better than he had known it before his time overseas in the military, where he would learn to live life again, this time with a brain injury.
Robert feels better when he is with the hawks. He is considered the expert on the NH Peregrine Falcon population having rock climbed almost every day to observe the birds which he humbly feels a special bond with, and explains is a part of his own nature. It is a very spiritual experience for him to be out there and understanding the birds, and sharing what he loves with every person who joins him on hawk watches and lectures.

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH.  This image available for purchase during my art exhibit at NH Audubon McLane Center through Oct 23rd.  Partial proceeds from the sale of my art support the mission of NH Audubon.

Robert goes to the Concord Audubon center almost every day to feed all the birds in captivity. And he is strictly a volunteer. His compensation is time with the birds, giving them their daily meals and making sure they are relaxed and comfortable in their enclosures. By giving the birds what they need, Robert gets what he needs, which is not measured in dollars but in gratitude to the birds.
Sometimes the red tailed hawk goes with Robert to Carter Hill. One might think it is cruel to keep a hawk tethered to a short chain, but this hawk incurred serious injuries that would not allow her to fly again.

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH

Robert watches her quickly flick her head. He brings the binoculars up to his eyes. Look there, he points. This hawk helps him find migrating birds in the sky that we would have a hard time seeing with our human eyes. Although the 18 year-old hawk can’t fly, she still gets to experience the relationship of being with other birds in the wild and she can spread her wings in the open, feeling the currents lift her up. The red tailed hawk (which does not have a name because “she” is not a pet) helps Robert to count birds. Without this bird, we’d miss a lot of valuable information about the hawk migration.

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH. This image available for purchase during my art exhibit at NH Audubon McLane Center through Oct 23rd. Partial proceeds from the sale of my art support the mission of NH Audubon.

This image available for purchase during my art exhibit at NH Audubon McLane Center through Oct 23rd.  Partial proceeds from the sale of my art support the mission of NH Audubon.

I was pretty lucky the few days I stopped by to look for hawks. I saw eagles, osprey, kestrels, vultures, a harrier, broad wings in large kettles, red tailed, and many others, but what I really wanted to see was a red shouldered hawk. I ask Robert what species the hawk helped him find. It’s a red shouldered!! I look to sky with my binoculars straining to find it. Robert hands his super strong glass over to me and says try these. There it is!! Wow! What an amazing sight! And all thanks to Robert and the special relationship he has with the hawk.

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH

You, too, can experience the hawk migration at Carter Hill. It’s free and the staff and volunteers love visitors. You don’t need any experience at all. They appreciate the help spotting hawks. And no worries about not knowing what you are finding in the sky. The experts will know and teach you how to identify them, often by the way the hawks flap their wings, or the pattern on their wings.
The hawks continue to migrate south through most of November, so there is plenty of time to go. A clear sunny day is the best. Not just for humans, but the hawks like the warmth of the sun, too. That reminds me. I’ve been told that golden eagles have been spotted from the deck, and I hope I get to see one this year.

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord

Hawk Watch at Carter Hill Orchard, Concord, NH

Info and directions to Carter Hill Orchard can be found on their website.
Learn more about the Hawk Watch program by NH Audubon.

November 27, 2013:  Click here to read about Robert and the red tailed hawk in the NH Fish and Game Wildlife Journal Magazine

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