Raptor Observatories

Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn releases a rehabilitated Broad-winged Hawk at Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory in September of 2014 in front of a crowd of awed onlookers. Photo by Rough Legged Photography.

Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn
releases a rehabilitated Broad-winged Hawk. Photo by Rough Legged Photography.

During the fall migration season, NH Audubon welcomes visitors to raptor observatories at Carter Hill Orchard in Concord and Pack Monadnock at Miller State Park in Peterborough. As thousands of raptors pass overhead, NH Audubon staff tally birds as part of an international effort to monitor raptor population trends in the Americas. Thousands of visitors – including hundreds of students from across the region – come to the observatories to learn about raptor identification, and to experience the spectacle of raptor migration.

What Are Migratory Raptors?

The group of birds known as diurnal raptors are birds of prey that are sometimes referred to simply as “hawks.” They include eagles, falcons, ospreys, vultures, kites and harriers as well as hawks. They range in size from the diminutive American kestrel (not much bigger than a robin) to the massive bald eagle with a wingspan of more than six and a half feet. We regularly observe and count 14 species at NH Audubon’s Raptor Observatories.

Why Study Raptors?

CH_release2_JE

A Broad-winged Hawk takes flight into the wild. Photo by Jen Esten.

Raptors are particularly sensitive indicators of environmental health and change because they inhabit most ecosystem types, occupy large home ranges, feed at the top of the food pyramid, and are highly sensitive to chemical contamination and other forms of human-caused disturbance. Spring and fall are the ideal times to collect data on raptors because they congregate during migration along coastlines, prominent mountain ridges and river valleys making it easy to tally them. Conducting standardized long-term counts of migrating raptors can help us learn about their migration patterns, behaviors and populations.

Follow Our Season Counts on HawkCount!

Daily count reports with highlights are posted online at the end of each day throughout the fall at www.hawkcount.org, an online database managed by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). Once you have reached the site, select “Day Summaries” or “Month Summaries” and select the site you wish. Here you may read about season totals, record counts and average timing per species. You can also find additional information and photos by clicking on “Site Profiles. Navigating to different sites can also be done by clicking on “Find a Hawkwatch” where you may choose sites by state.

To volunteer or support the raptor observatories in either Concord or Peterborough, contact Phil Brown, Director of Land Management, at (603) 224-
9909×334 or at pbrown@nhaudubon.org.

Carter Hill Raptor Observatory

The platform at Carter Hill Observatory in Concord, NH

The platform at Carter Hill Observatory in Concord, NH

General Information:

The Carter Hill Raptor Observatory is located at Carter Hill Orchard, a conserved, family-owned farm that grows apples and other fruit in Concord, NH. The Observatory is one of two that is coordinated by New Hampshire Audubon between September 1 and November 15 annually.

An observation platform, which is open to the public, is a central feature of the orchard and has served as the hawk watch location since 2008. Visitors can generally drive directly to the platform location, but weekends from mid-September to mid-October may result in large crowds and more distant parking. The platform is not currently ADA accessible, but disabled visitors can observe hawks from the area below. Upwards of 10,000 people may visit during the course of a fall season, with larger crowds on weekends in mid-September through early October. School group visits of 20 students or more at a time are not uncommon on weekdays. Reservations to both Carter Hill Orchard and New Hampshire Audubon are generally recommended for school or other large (8+) group visits, and a donation to New Hampshire Audubon in support of the Observatory is suggested.

Carter Hill Orchard offers pick-your-own fruit, a country store, wagon rides, a playground, hiking trails, scenic vistas, leaf peeping, and outhouses. It is open to the public 9-6 daily through the end of October, and 9-5 daily in November.

BWHA KF

A soaring Broad-winged Hawk. By Katrina Fenton.

Site History:

In 2007, local birders Joe and Robert Quinn, on a tip from friend, Rob Woodward, decided to try hawk watching from Carter Hill Orchard’s relatively new and accessible platform. Their observations of many hundreds of Broad-winged Hawks and great looks at other species drew the attention of New Hampshire Audubon, and after a follow-up visit by staff, the organization broached the possibility of establishing a full-time hawkwatch at the site with the Larocque family, the owners of the orchard. The Carter Hill Raptor Observatory was founded the following year, in 2008, and the hawk watch post was manned by volunteer, Robert Vallieres, and a small, dedicated following for the first three seasons.

In 2012, New Hampshire Audubon was able to hire a seasonal naturalist, bringing additional standardization and full-time presence to the site, and the organization continues to staff this position and grow the education and outreach programs of the observatory. The spectacle and science of raptor migration, with the help of New Hampshire Audubon staff and volunteers, has now been shared with tens of thousands of visitors to Carter Hill Orchard.

Topography and Migration:

There are a variety of elements that make Carter Hill an excellent place for observing raptor migration, despite the site not being located along a major leading line. Its geography is one, as it is sandwiched on an upland ridge between the nearby Merrimack and Contoocook Rivers, which each to themselves are a migratory route and source of food, particularly for eagles and ospreys. There is also much variation in the topography of the immediate vicinity, useful for generating thermals and orographic lift. Lastly is the vantage point the platform gives for viewing approaching birds from the north and east across the background of Mt. Kearsarge and the White Mountains, and across the southern part of the orchard, where distant views are much more limited.

Migration is most pronounced on northwest winds, especially on the several days following the passage of a cold front. Significant daily and seasonal flights of Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Harriers, American Kestrels, and Bald Eagles have occurred here.

For current and historic migration data, visit HawkCount.org.

Annual Raptor Observatory Reports:

Directions:

Visit Google Maps to see the location of Cater Hill Orchard located at 73 Carter Hill Road in Concord and get directions.

ed reilly subaruOur thanks to Ed Reilly Subaru of Concord, NH for once again supporting this effort. Ed Reilly Subaru is a family-owned and operated, full-service Subaru dealership that has operated out of Concord, NH for 20 years.

Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory

Pack Monadnock Observatory

Observers celebrate the 10,000th migratory raptor of the season in 2011. Photo by Al Grimstad.

General Information:

The Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory is located within Miller State Park near the summit of Pack Monadnock Mountain along the 22-mile long Wapack Ridge in the southwestern portion of the state. The Observatory is one of two that is coordinated by New Hampshire Audubon between September 1 and November 15 annually. The site was launched in September 2005 with funding from the Samuel P. Hunt Foundation, The Monadnock Community Foundation, and the Putnam Foundation.

Funding allowed for dramatically-improved visitor access through trail enhancement and landscaping, design and installation of three large interpretive panels and the staffing of the site. The site is staffed daily by a New Hampshire Audubon seasonal Biologist/Interpreter or a volunteer.

Corvids NM

A Bald Eagle is escorted by a group of ravens. Photo by Nancy Moreau.

This location is an observation area that can accommodate large crowds and is ADA accessible. It is reached by a short trail from a parking area at the top of the mountain, as well as from several hiking trails. The trails in Miller State Park are open to hikers during all seasons, and the auto road is open through mid-October (and to late October on weekends) barring poor weather conditions. Visitors can hike one of two 1.5-mile long trails, or drive to the summit and walk a 0.2 mile accessible trail to the observation area. Weekends from mid-September to mid-October may result in limited parking within the park and, especially, on the summit. Upwards of 5,000 people may visit the platform during the course of a fall season, and weekdays during peak season (mid-September through early October) often feature large school group visits. Reservations to Miller State Park are required for school or other large group visits, and a donation to New Hampshire Audubon in support of the Observatory is suggested. There is a small entrance fee upon entering Miller State Park.

Miller State Park offers hiking trails, scenic vistas, leaf peeping, and bathrooms. The auto road is open to the public 9-5 daily through mid-October, and sporadically afterwards. The park is otherwise open to the public during daylight hours.

Pack_Cynthia1_9.14

Volunteer Cynthia Nichols, educates a group of students about raptor migration. Photo by Phil Brown.

Site History:

Pack Monadnock has been a popular spot for hawkwatching since the 1960’s. Iain MacLeod founded the site in 2005 for New Hampshire Audubon and initiated full coverage by a seasonal Biologist/Interpreter, which has occurred continuously since then. Pack Monadnock has proven to be an excellent site with an average of nearly 10,000 raptors/season, making it one of the most productive sites in northern New England.

Topography and Migration:

The observatory is located within an expansive, granite clearing on the north face of Pack Monadnock, surrounded by red spruce and hardwood forest. It provides stunning views of Mt. Monadnock and the surrounding area, a panoramic view of the green mountains of Vermont to the west, the White Mountains to the north and the coastal plain to the east. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Washington.

Migration is most pronounced on northwest winds, especially on the several days following the passage of a cold front. Significant daily and seasonal flights of Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks, Peregrine Falcons, Ospreys, and Bald Eagles have occurred here. Late season (mid-October through mid-November) can be highlighted by Golden Eagles and Northern Goshawks.

For current and historic migration data, visit HawkCount.org.

Annual Raptor Observatory Reports:

Directions:

Visit Google Maps for directions to Pack Monadnock and Miller State Park located at 13 Miller Park Road in Peterborough, NH.

If you are planning to bring a school group to Pack Monadnock, please notify both NH Audubon and Miller State Park (603-924-3672) in advance.

Support our Observatories

Visit our online donation form to support our Raptor Observatory.

or mail your donation to:
NH Audubon
84 Silk Farm Rd.
Concord, NH 03301-8301
Add a note or write on the check that your gift is for Raptor Observatory support.

THANK YOU!