Information - Montclair Hawkwatch
David A. La Puma Contacts
3,641:02 observation hours, 4 year
lat: 40.84654, lng: -74.21285
DescriptionThe Montclair Hawk Lookout is nestled atop a 500-foot basalt ledge on a ridge known as the First Watchung Mountain in Montclair, New Jersey. It is a well constructed, stone-filled platform that is the site of the Montclair Hawk Lookout, a sanctuary of the New Jersey Audubon Society. This is the first ridge west of the lower Hudson River Valley, and runs from northeast to southwest. What makes this site interesting during migration is the mixture of both coastal and ridge flights. In some years, exceptional Broad-winged Hawk flights have been observed in the Fall. The view from the platform is spectacular, considering its location amidst one of the most densely populated areas in the country. While participating in the "hide and seek" search for hawks in the ever spinning billowing clouds above, one can be treated to the south and east with a view of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the entire New York City skyline including the Statue of Liberty, all the way northeast to the Palisades. To the north and west, peaks from the Ramapo Mountains can be discerned, and the beginning of the Second Watchung Mountain. Directly across from the Lookout facing north is the Essex County Park of Mills Reservation from where the Spring Hawk Count is conducted, as the visibility to the south is better from there.
The Montclair Hawk Watch has been conducted since 1957. It is the second oldest continuous hawk watch in the nation. Only Hawk Mountain boasts a longer record. With this long history, a glance over the shoulder is appropriate. In 1957, the Montclair Hawk Watch was formally organized by three members of the Montclair Bird Club--Ruth Edwards, Sue Haupt and Ruth Beck--and ran from September 10 through September 29. Today, the Lookout is covered for three months in the Fall and two months in the Spring. These many years later, hawkwatchers still climb to the top of the ridge to observe the migration of the magnificent birds of prey. There have been extraordinary changes during that period of time. We have witnessed the near-demise of the Peregrine Falcon, and the threat to the Bald Eagle and Osprey, due to the flagrant misuse of pesticides during the 1960's, and the ongoing recovery of these birds. We have seen the development of lands surrounding the Lookout, and the encroachment upon access to the site. We have witnessed unparalleled flights of Broad-winged Hawks, and marveled at every single bird passing along our little ridge during these many seasons. We have enjoyed the camaraderie amongst hawkwatchers, and the wealth of knowledge shared by those who stood on this ridge long before we ever climbed to its summit. Despite development all around, the Lookout is now a protected sanctuary of the New Jersey Audubon Society, due largely to the extraordinary efforts of former NJAS President Milt Levy, Trustee Jean Clark and President Tom Gilmore. In 1959, George Breck, a former president of the Montclair Bird Club, advanced the funds to purchase the property for the Club, which in turn donated it to NJAS in September of that year. At the dedication, George Breck explained that the Lookout was being preserved as a sanctuary in perpetuity \"so our children's children can enjoy such spectacles as we see here today.\" Many such spectacles were enjoyed and treasured during the following years. There were the good seasons, the slow seasons, young people with keen eyes spotting distant specks and wise veterans recognizing the unique characteristics of form and movement that placed a fleeting talon-print across the sky. 1986 marked the passing of our dear friend and leader Andrew Bihun, Jr., who had started his hawkwatching in the early days at Hawk Mountain, and brought those fine skills and dedication to Montclair, where he kept meticulous records for more than 20 years and taught a new generation of hawkwatchers the joy and wonder of nature's annual pageant. In a fitting tribute to his devotion, the Lookout was dedicated to Andy's memory on September 16, 1988. On that day, some 17,420 hawks were observed, the biggest single day count ever made from the Lookout.