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Sandy Hook Bird Observatory
Sandy Hook Migration Watch Site Guide

Photo by Dan MorleyThe NJ Audubon Sandy Hook Migration Watch takes place at the Observation Deck near the North Pond at the northern tip of Sandy Hook.  The Migration Watch, collecting data on diurnal migrants like loons, cormorants, Northern Gannet, herons, and egrets along with raptors, is the successor to a raptors-only watch begun in 1970.

Birds are counted from March 15 to May 15. NOTE: Due to last fall's hurricane, the count is not being held in 2013.

Nineteen species of diurnal raptors have been recorded on the counts, with over 10,000 migrating hawks passing by during the spring of 1985.  More typical yearly totals range from 4,000 to 6,000 birds of prey. 

 The bulk of the flights consists of Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, American Kestrel, and Merlin.  Short-eared and Barn Owls have also been recorded.  Mid-April tends to be the peak time for large flights, but good counts can continue into May.  Rarities have included Swallow-tailed Kite, Mississippi Kite, Swainson's Hawk, Golden Eagle, and Northern Goshawk.  Rough-legged Hawk and Goshawk are most likely to be seen in March; Swallow-tailed Kite tends to appear in the last week of April; May offers the best chance to see Mississippi Kite.

To reach the watch location: from Garden State Parkway Exit 117, take Route 36 east to the entrance for the Sandy Hook unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area.  Head north on the Hook road, following signs to the northern beaches.  The Observation Deck is near Parking Lot K, the most northern of the parking lots.  To reach the observation deck, walk approximately 100 yards up the path at the northern end of the parking lot.

Reports on the count can be seen at the Hawkcount website.