The Tussey Mountain Spring Hawkwatch
State College, Pennsylvania
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Tussey Mountain is a spring hawkwatch focusing on Golden Eagles, the lesser known cousin of our national bird, the Bald Eagle. Primarily a bird of the mountains and foothills of western North America, a small population of a few thousand Golden Eagles breeds in remote areas of northeastern Canada and migrates south to spend the winter in the U.S. These birds had been counted on fall migration in Pennsylvania for many years, at well-known hawkwatching meccas like Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and PA Audubon's Waggoner's Gap. However, very few were seen in spring. This changed in the mid-1990s when we started watching at Tussey. Full-time spring coverage since 2001 has shown that Tussey Mountain consistently has the highest counts of spring migrating Golden Eagles in the Appalachian region.
Tussey Mountain is designated a Pennsylvania Important Bird Area (IBA), based primarily on its importance as a spring eagle migration corridor, and also as a large block of intact forest habitat, over 50% of which is publicly owned. See the PA IBA site for more information.
The hawkwatch is located in Rothrock State Forest, about 7 miles southwest of State College, Pennsylvania (Lat = 40.7108 N, Lon = 77.9047 W, Elev = 2050 ft). Here's a map. Take Route 26 south from State College. Bear left at the flashing light in Pine Grove Mills, and continue on Route 26 to the top of Tussey Mountain (locally called "Pine Grove Mtn"). Park in the large gravel lot on the right near Jo Hayes Vista. Walk about 2/3 mile on the Mid-State Trail to the southwest along the ridgetop until you get to the powerline (if the winds are from the northwest, Jo Hayes itself is also a good spot). Pick a comfortable rock, be patient, and enjoy the view. The best time to see golden eagles is during the first three weeks of March. Be sure to bring plenty of layers because weather can be brutal on the ridgetop. If you need a break, head down to Shaver's Creek to warm up!
The Tussey Mountain Spring Hawkwatch is directed by Dan Ombalski, Nick Bolgiano, Jon Kauffman, and Jason Beale. Official counter for 2017 is Lewis Grove. Our sponsor is the Shavers Creek Environmental Center, and we are funded through grants (sometimes), the generosity of individual donors, and partnership with the State College Bird Club. Past funders include the Diane Moore Memorial Fund of the Centre Foundation, The National Aviary, the James L. Baillie Memorial Fund, and the Juniata Valley Audubon Society. As you might imagine its not easy keeping the count funded each year - send your tax-deductible donation to the State College Bird Club, c/o Dan Ombalski, 141 Mulberry Street, Julian, PA 16844 (indicate for Tussey Mountain Hawkwatch).
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