AVERY COUNTY, N.C. (WSPA) — Shorter days, longer nights, and cooler temperatures are signs of Fall. Birds know that, too.
Early fall is the peak of hawk migration season over the North Carolina mountains. However, throughout the season a mix of birds, and insects such as monarch butterflies and dragonflies, pass through.
People arrive, too. For some, this is about more than just watching birds.
Asheville resident Jackie Austin is one of them. As a cancer survivor, hawk-watching has a special meaning to her.
“I was just fascinated and inspired and it kind of changed the course of my year as far as healing goes. Because hearing what these birds do and what they endure just empowered me. I went home…I spent a week up here and I went home changed,” said Jackie.
Grandfather Mountain, just outside of Linville, North Carolina, is one of about 200 official “Hawk Watch” sites nationwide. These bird counts are used to learn more about trends in bird population and migration patterns.
John Caveny, the natural resource specialist for Grandfather Mountain, said a good day of viewing can bring around 3,000 birds.
“Some of them don’t migrate very far, but there’s a few that have really long-distance migrations such as the broad-winged hawks, which are the ones we see the most of. Some of them could be coming from as far as Canada and going all the way to Central and South America…which is about a 6,000-mile flight,” said Caveny.
Hawk migration peaked at the end of September, but if you want to take in some fresh Fall air and watch birds fly by, you still can, according to Caveny.
“October and even November there are still some migrants that come through. The turkey vultures will start migrating at that time. Golden eagles are more commonly seen in late October, early November,” said Caveny.
If you’re headed up to the mountains, pack binoculars and some patience. The birds won’t necessarily fly near you, and there’s no guarantee of an active day.
Also dress for the weather; it can get pretty chilly this time of year at the higher elevations.