Raptor (birds of prey) migration fascinates observers across the globe as these impressive birds make their way from their northern breeding territories to southern wintering grounds, which are often thousands of miles apart.
There are hundreds of hawk watches located throughout the United States, and New Jersey, with its unique topography along the Atlantic Flyway, is home to 14 such hawk watches. The “Scott’s Mountain” Hawk Watch, located at Merrill Creek, with its easy access and impressive number of hawks counted each Fall, is a must visit during the hawk migration season.
Volunteers gather at the Merrill Creek Reservoir’s Inlet/Outlet Tower parking lot, located off of Fox Farm Road, during migration season to count hawks as they pass overhead. The raptors will migrate from late summer through the end of November with peak numbers expected from mid September through mid October. Historically, the days with the most number of birds are those following a cold front with northerly winds. The record number of broad-winged hawks counted at Merrill Creek in one day was a staggering 18,000.
The data that is gathered each year is compiled and submitted to the
Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). This organization
is committed to the conservation of raptors through scientific research.
This research includes establishing hawk watches throughout North America
so that the hawks can be counted as they migrate south each Fall.