Raptors: Powerful Yet Vulnerable
This beautiful winged creature flew into a friend's house and died instantly. It's currently in the freezer, awaiting possible transport to NYC's Museum of Natural History, which seeks pristine specimens. After consulting the Sibley Guide to Birds, it appears this is either a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) or Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii). Apparently, differentiating between these two types is challenging even for advanced birders. It's often the case that no field guide can substitute for plenty of practice out in the wild, though there are worse places to start an ID.
This fall, The Outside Institute was privileged to participate in the annual Hawk Watch in the company of gifted photographer and birder Lawrence Braun. He invited us to join him in mid-September atop Sunrise Mountain, a 1,650-foot tall peak in New Jersey's Stokes State Forest. Birders gather there to watch the raptor migration along the Kittatinny Ridge. Hawks, ospreys, American kestrel, merlin and other birds ride the air currents, which helps them conserve their energy for the long flight to points south. "Hope," as Emily Dickinson wrote, "is the thing with feathers."