Raptor Migration Lookouts
Hawk watch locations can be found throughout the Commonwealth. The diurnal raptors passing over-head can be viewed for official counts or simply for recreation. For more information about the state's raptor watching opportunities and potential for participating in hawk watches, please see the website of the
Hawk Watching Association of North America.
Bake Oven Knob
From the valley view on its south side, the Kittatinny ridge line bulges sharply, interrupting its flowing contour to form a boulder-strewn knob, Bake Oven Knob. Hawk counts conducted at Bake Oven Knob have been recording raptor migration for 50 years, one of the longest running raptor migration studies in the world. This hawk watch site is part of State Game Land 217 in Lehigh and Carbon counties. The game land extends into Schuylkill County, protecting 7,177 acres in this section of Kittatinny Ridge and providing access for outdoor recreation such as hunting, hiking and birdwatching.
Before 1957, the rocky outcrops of Bake Oven Knob served as hawk shooting sites. The unbridled slaughter of eagles, falcons, hawks and other birds took place each autumn from the summit, which is about 16 miles east of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
The lookouts on Bake Oven Knob hold commanding views of the forests and farmland below in Lehigh Valley. The site is a premier location to view migrating eagles with an average of 194 Bald Eagles and 96 Golden Eagles recorded annually. The autumn count begins in mid August and runs through November, although the best viewing starts in September with Bald Eagles, Ospreys and Broad-winged Hawks migrating through in peak numbers.
Lehigh Gap Nature Center conducts the counts at Bake Oven Knob.
Directions: From Allentown, take Route 309 north about 15 miles through Schnecksville to Mountain Road (SR 4024) on the right. Make a right onto Mountain Road and go 2.3 miles. Turn left onto Ulrich Road (T808) and continue .3 miles where the road turns to gravel. Follow the gravel road 1.5 miles up the mountain to a state game land parking area on the right. To reach the south lookout, hike about one-third of a mile along the Appalachian Trail. The north lookout is another 200 yards up the trail. From the north, follow Rt. 309 south to Route 895 east. Follow Rt. 895 about 5.5 miles and turn right onto Lauchnar Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto Germans Road. Follow Germans Road .25 mile and turn right onto Bake Oven Road. At the top of the mountain turn right into the game lands parking area.
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
Hawk Mountain is the most popular of Pennsylvania's hawk watch sites and the most developed. It is part of the Kittatinny Ridge at the border of Berks and Schuylkill Counties. The
Hawk Mountain Sanctuary
includes a welcome center, raptor museum, a native plant garden, a bookstore, and a biological field station complete with accommodations for researchers. The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is a world leader in raptor science and education. It is also designated as a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area.
The sanctuary charges an admission fee to access trails and lookouts. The site has 10 lookouts of varying distances from the parking area and buildings and 8 miles of hiking trails. The lookouts afford spectacular views of the region including some local landmarks such as Owl's Head, the Pinnacle, and the River of Rocks. Raptor-watching is only one of several viewing opportunities, which includes songbird, butterfly, and dragonfly migrations. The North Lookout is the most popular and affords a 240 degree view to the east. The South Lookout is closer to the Visitor's Center and wheelchair accessible.
Directions: From Hamburg at Interstate 78, take PA Route 61 North. Proceed 4.5 miles and turn right onto PA 895 East/Summer Valley Road. Follow Summer Valley Road 2.5 miles to Drehersville. Turn right onto State Road 2018 which turns into Hawk Mountain Road. The sanctuary is two miles up the hill. Make a right into the parking area.
The boulder pile lookout near the gap at the crest of the ridge sits on the border of Cumberland and Perry counties. The ridgetop of Kittatinny is narrow here and falls steeply on both sides of the mountain affording a broad view in either direction, especially looking southeast. Migrating bald eagles passing Waggoner's Gap have increased dramatically with anywhere from one to 25 recorded each day during the count season and season totals exceeding 500 birds in recent years. Bald eagles are seen from early August through December with a peak in mid September.
This lookout is known for the high numbers of Golden Eagles recorded annually. Golden Eagle numbers steadily climb through October and peak by the end of October into much of November. The highest count recorded 275 Golden Eagles in the 2006 season. Monitoring at this site is conducted by
Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch.
Directions: From Carlisle, take PA Route 74 north about 6 miles following Rt. 74 signs to the top of Kittatinny Ridge and parking area on the left. The main watch site is about 75 yards east of the parking area.
A carved sculpture of a Golden Eagle perched on a pedestal marks the 50-yard clearing at the summit of Shaffer Mountain on the Allegheny Front. The sculpted bird hints of the potential to see Golden Eagles during their autumn and spring migrations. More than 18,000 raptors are counted at the site each year, with Golden Eagles as a highlight species. The site averages more than 200 Golden Eagles annually and peak months include November and March. It is also common to see Bald Eagles from mid-August to mid December and again throughout March and April. Other common birds of prey include Ospreys, Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Peregrine Falcons, American Kestrels, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Harriers and Broad-winged Hawks.
The southeast-facing site is at the far eastern edge of Somerset County and provides a spectacular 180 degree view of northwest Bedford County. The vista sits 800 feet above a broad valley which is inter-spersed with forested hills and rolling farms. In the distance, Blue Knob is visible and to the south, Shawnee Lake. Strong east winds push migrating raptors into Shaffer Mountain and the birds sometimes sail past at or below eye level. At other times they pass overhead. The
Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society operates this site.
Directions: From Central City, take Route 160 north to Lambert Street (SR 1018). Lambert Street is straight ahead where Rt. 160N makes a sharp left. Continue slowly through a railroad crossing and bear right to stay on Lambert Street. This road becomes Shaffer Mountain Road. Bear right at the next Y onto Lambert Mountain Road (SR 1035). Travel 2.9 miles on Lambert Mountain Road, through State Game Land 228, to a small four-way intersection. Continue straight on Lambert Mountain Road, which becomes a gravel/dirt road-way. Travel .5 miles passing a cemetery on the right and then a blue gate, also on the right. Turn right at the gate. Hawk watch parking is one-third mile away.
This long ridge spans 70 miles from central Pennsylvania to the Maryland state border. Because of its importance to spring migration, Greater Tussey Mountain is a designated Important Bird Area, IBA #81. Located in Centre County, Tussey Mountain hawk watch is at the crest of the ridge along a power line right of way. The hawk site is known for the golden eagles that migrate through in February and March, averaging more than 170 birds annually with daily records exceeding 60 eagles.
Golden eagles migrate through Pennsylvania's Ridge and Valley Province following a corridor that is 30 to 50 miles wide. This state is a major corridor for the migration of the Golden Eagle population of eastern North America. Many of them pass through this corridor and continue their journey to northern breeding grounds in remote areas of Canada.
Directions: This hawk watch site is located about 7 miles southwest of State College in Rothrock State Forest. From State College, take Route 26 south. In Pine Grove Mills, bear left at the flashing light and continue on Rt. 26 to the top of Tussey Mountain. Parking is on the right near Jo Hays Vista. This vista is a good hawk watch spot on days when winds are from the northwest. On foot, take the Mid-State Trail southwest about two-thirds of a mile until you reach the power line.
The narrow ridgetop affords views into Big Valley to the south and east and Stone Valley to the north. Volunteers from the State College Bird Club count raptors during the fall migration. Counting begins September 1, and continues through mid November on weekends and throughout weekdays as volunteers are available.
A platform for hawk watching was built on this rocky outcrop. The best days for hawk watching are following cold fronts with northwest winds striking the ridge.
Directions: From State College, take Route 26 south to Pine Grove Mills. In Pine Grove Mills, bear left at the flashing light and continue on Rt. 26 up over Tussey Mountain. Continue south on Rt. 26 to McAlevy's Fort. Proceed past a fire station on the right, over a bridge to a stop sign. At the stop sign, make a left onto Route 305, Greenwood Road. Follow Greenwood Road seven tenths of a mile and turn right onto Barr Road, which is just past a large brick church on the left. Continue on Barr Road for six tenths of a mile and turn left onto Davis Road. Follow Davis Road 1.2 to East Branch Road. Turn right onto East Branch Road. Follow East Branch Road 1.6 miles to Allensville Road on the left, a dirt road with no winter maintenance. Follow Allensville Road three miles to the top of Stone Mountain. Watch Locations
At the very top, park on the left side of Allensville Road. Follow the trail north (left of the road) into the woods. After 50 yards cross a rock field and follow the orange-blazed, Standing Stone Trail, also known as the Link Trail. Follow the trail five to 10 minutes along the ridge to the hawk viewing platform. The three-tenths-mile trail leading to the hawk watch site is moderate to difficult hiking along a rocky trail. The trail is marked with orange blazes.