Marie McAden



Hawks make annual fall appearance in the Upstate

Posted 10/1/2012 11:19:00 AM

Hurry on up to Caesars Head State Park to catch this year’s avian air show, a spectacle of nature featuring thousands of birds of prey soaring, swooping and spiraling through the skies over the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.

Hawk Watch is in full swing as the continent-crossing raptors make their annual migration through the Upstate from their summer grounds to the warmer climates of Central and South America.

The best seat in the house is on the park’s 3,266-foot granite overlook with its panoramic view of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the only place in the South Carolina mountains with the natural characteristics to create updrafts.

By catching thermals, the hawks can soar skyward without having to flap their wings. They’ll make a tight circle to stay in the rising column of air, allowing them to conserve energy for their long trip south. This circling technique is called kettling.

At the peak of the migration in late September, it’s possible to see hundreds, even thousands of birds of prey winging it along the Appalachian Flyway. The best time to catch the show is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Caesars Head State Park is an official North American Hawk Migration Site and participates annually in the hawk count from September through November. In recent years, more than 12,000 Broad-winged Hawks — the most prevalent species to cross the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area — were counted by park staff and volunteer birders. The species is easily identified by the white and black bands on its broad, fanned tail.

Among other high-flying visitors seen in the Upstate are the Bald Eagle, Osprey, Sharp-winged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Merlin, American Kestrel, Mississippi Kite, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture and the occasional Peregrine Falcon.

To watch a video about the annual hawk migration, click here. You can also keep track of the daily bird count at www.hawkcount.org.