Leica Sport Optics is proud to support two of the most prominent hawk-watch sites in the United States – the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania and the Florida Keys Hawk Watch. Recently listed in Audubon Magazine’s “Guide to Hawk Watching,” both locales offer birders a variety and abundance of raptor-viewing opportunities.
Every year during migration, birders gather at hawk watches to appreciate the raptor migration first hand. Hawk watches are located along mountain ridges or coastlines, which create “leading lines” that cause migrating hawks, eagles and falcons to pass in concentrated numbers.
Thousands of annual visitors gather in hopes of getting rare glimpses at large numbers of hawks. Professional researchers also use the hawk watches to help monitor and gauge raptor populations.
These dedicated researchers will spend all day, every day, for months scanning the skies through binoculars and spotting scopes and tallying every raptor that passes. Researchers often look through their optics for 10 to 11 hours straight while tallying thousands of hawks. The constant, intense concentration for extended periods of time is hard work and can leave one bleary-eyed by day’s end. Use of high-quality optics can make a big difference by providing superior resolution of minute details on sometimes distant raptors, and by offering maximum eye-comfort.
“High-performance glass is devoid of minor optical imperfections, and it eliminates eye strain and fatigue,” says Jeff Bouton, former hawk-watcher and present marketing manager for Leica Sport Optics, USA. “Differences between premium optics and lesser products may not be as noticeable in quick comparisons at a store counter, but trust me, at the end of a full day of extended use in the field, these differences become painfully apparent.”
Leica Sport Optics is honored to be the official optics outfitter at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Located on the Kittitanny Ridge, along the east edge of the Appalachian Mountain Range in Pennsylvania, Hawk Mountain commands one of the most breath-taking vistas of any hawk-watch location. Celebrated as the world’s first refuge for birds of prey, this birding mecca was founded in 1934 by ardent conservationists and is a “must see” on every serious birder’s bucket list.
Leica’s Jeff Bouton was thrilled to visit Hawk Mountain and climb to North Lookout in late September. This magical place is steeped in ornithological history, and is hallowed ground for birders across the globe. As incredible as the view and the migration is the breadth of the outreach and programs at HMS. Education of local school children began in the 1940’s, and the official college intern program kicked off in the mid 1970’s. In the time since, more than 360 students from 62 countries on six continents have trained as interns at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, making their International Conservation Science Internship Program one of their most successful endeavors ever.
Leica Sport Optics is also excited to be the official sponsor of the Florida Keys Hawk Watch. Located in the tropical Florida Keys, the feel and view from here is as different from Hawk Mountain as the birds and wildlife. FKH is located in Curry Hammock State Park nestled right in the middle of the long string of tiny islands that stretch south and west between mainland Florida and Cuba.
FKH is different than most American hawk-watch sites. For example, there are few other hawk watches where you also pack swim fins, a mask and snorkel. From the watch, one has to merely cross a narrow service road and 30 feet of dunes to reach the white sand beach at the edge of the blue waters. There is no other hawk-watch site in the US or Canada that regularly records numerous short-tailed hawks and swallow-tailed kites, and likely no other that has ever tallied a migrating snail kite either.
Leica is dedicated to the raptor research community and is proud to support these two wonderful organizations. The fall hawk migration is well underway now and Florida Keys Hawk Watch will continue counting until mid-November with peregrine flights peaking in early to mid-October. Enjoy the crisp fall air, the amazing fall foliage and, with luck, a golden eagle or two at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary as well.
Image courtesy Mallory Communications