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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Go Hawks!

Before you get all excited about going to an Atlanta Hawk's game, let me stop you right now. Sorry, but I am talking about the real hawks! Next month, September 2016, we are going to have a huge north to south migration in North America.
If you live on the west coast, be prepared to primarily see sharp-shinned hawks, coopers hawks and red-tailed hawks. They will take a migration route down the California coast line and end in Mexico.  On the east coast, we have a little different mix, but the north/south migration ends for the most part in Mexico and Central America.  Migration can continue down into South America.  The hawks will migrate from Canada down several corridors in the east.  The species you are looking for are primarily sharp-shinned, broad-tailed and red-tailed hawks.  For more information and established hawk watch sites, you can go to the Hawk Migration Association Web Site
How Can you View Them?
Fortunately, much of the work has already been done for us to figure out where to go and folks have even built platforms to view the hawks as they migrate.  On the east coast, one of the most famous areas to view hawks is at Hawk Mountain, but watching locations exist throughout the United States.  Here in the Piedmont of North Carolina, we go to a location called Pilot Mountain State Park to count and view the hawks as they come through.


How Can I Photograph Them?
Well, this is hit and miss really unless you want to use an owl decoy (often looked down on).  You can sometimes get photographs of large formations of hawks soaring above your viewing platform. Look for opportunities for sweeping images of hawk silhouettes or even detailed flock shots.  You may also from time to time see a hawk perched nearby, but this is hit or miss again.  The real value, I think, is getting to get out of the house and talk to others and experience the migration with like minded individuals.  In other words it is more of a meet and greet event vs a photography only event.  
If you do decide to try and photograph the hawks, consider morning and evening to try to capture the silhouettes and these times give you much less harsh lighting.  Bring a long lens.  Preferably something in the 500 to 600 mm range and just wait it out. 
If you want to come and chat with me, I will be at Pilot Mountain State Park one or two Saturdays.  Email me at mattcuda@gmail.com to find out more specific times I will be going.  See you there!

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