Greenville County Bird Club
Projects - Caesar's Head Hawk Watch

Caesar's Head Hawk Watch

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From early September through late November of each year, members of the Greenville County Bird Club participate in a count of migrating hawks at Caesar's Head State Park. The Hawk Watch is normally manned by volunteers who call themselves "Wing Nuts". Why "Wing Nuts"? One day a few years ago, as the group was scanning the skies with binoculars, some of the tourists who came to the park to enjoy the view were heard to exclaim "that's just a bunch of wing nuts". The name stuck.

More than 10,000 acres of prime, mountain habitat are protected by a complex of state parks and wildlife management areas known as the Mountain Bridge Wilderness in extreme northern Greenville County, South Carolina. One of the state parks is Caesar's Head. Rising 3,266 feet above the Carolina Piedmont, the Caesar's Head overlook provides the most dramatic mountain view in South Carolina. Caesar's Head is virtually the only place in the South Carolina mountains with the natural characteristics needed to attract thousands of migrating raptors.
 

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The Caesar’s Head Hawk Watch program was initiated by and is managed by Irvin Pitts, Resource Management Biologist with the State Park Service. During the mid-80's, while working at Caesar's Head as park naturalist, Irvin first noticed the large numbers of hawks during the fall migration. The birds are attracted by the thermals and updrafts generated by wind currents on the south facing escarpment. On a good day in September, hundreds even thousands of raptors might be seen passing through. Its not unusual to see 200 to 300 hawks at one time soaring or circling in a thermal overhead. This phenomenon is refereed to as “kettling” or a “kettle ” of hawks. To date, the highest single day count was over 5,200 birds.

The majority of the fall count consists of Broad-winged Hawks (in 2001 more than 10,000 were seen from the overlook during fall migration), but other species occur, including Bald Eagle, Osprey, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Merlin, American Kestrel, Mississippi Kite, Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture. Even Peregrine Falcon is possible. Usually, the local Ravens are on hand to entertain the group, as well as other fall migrants such as warblers, Hummingbirds, Red-headed Woodpeckers and Blue Jays.

The yearly counts are reported to the Hawk Migration Association of North America and to Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology. 1988 was the first year a report was submitted.

For more information about the Caesar's Head Hawk Watch program, please contact Tim Lee, Park Interpreter, at (864) 836-6115 or by e-mail at caesars_head_sp@prt.state.sc.us.

As results are compiled, the current year's tally along with archive results since 2007 can also be viewed at the HawkCount website.

Archives:

Hawk Watch Results 2007 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2006 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2005 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2004 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2003 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2002 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2001 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Results 2000 (PDF)
Hawk Watch Totals Since 1988 (PDF)

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