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ONCE UPON A TIME | "the best-known hawk lookout in New England" was the one at Mt. Tom in Massachusetts. Actually it was atop Goat's Peak within Mt. Tom State Reservation just outside Northampton, Mass. [the old state abbreviation is for nostalgic effect]. Heintzelman continues his note in the 1975 volume Autumn Hawk Flights: The Migration In Eastern North America, "hawk counts were begun here after Hawk Mountain [1937]."
The panorama above is a 270+ degree view available from the old hawk watch... interested in a larger version? Just click on the Goat's Peak image.

Today there are any number of sites in New England with more visitors, better coverage, and higher counts but Mt. Tom still draws the hawk watcher like the two Toms who try to get out for the same old show at least once every year. At left, Tom Tyning scans the Holyoke Range as he has since he was a teenager. And these days, he no teenager.

I asked Tom about the history of the hawk watch and the tower, he e-writes: "J.A.Haager -- first Massachusetts state ornithologist came to Mt. Tom in the 1930's on a survey of birds. While on the ridge tops he notes an unusual number of migrating hawks.

He returned the following spring to count more hawks, and by the next autumn, Mt. Tom became established as a great hawk watching site.

In the 1950's Rudd Stone and the Holyoke

Wildlife Club made arrangements with the state to have a tower erected at Goat's Peak to facilitate record keeping."

On 10/23/98, we had: 1 Bald Eagle [sub-adult], 2 migrating Turkey Vultures, 2 Northern Harriers, 24 Sharp-shinned Hawks [mostly blue-backed adults], 2 immature Cooper's Hawks, 1 young Northern Goshawk, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, and 11 Red-tailed Hawks, a late migrating species. Ravens and a Common Loon too.

Being a ridge line, Mt. Tom affords the hawk watcher looks down onto the birds. The Sharpies looked like big bluebirds with their incredibly lit adult-blue backs. We had a Goshawk harrassing a Red-shouldered Hawk and you couldn't tell the two apart based on size! It's the opportunity to just make one new observation or gleen an unexpected detail that makes the day... a reason for celebration...

Forming our own bit of tradition, we wind up our day at the Northampton Brewery for dinner and our own survey of the latest on-site libations.

Above, the other Tom [me, Tom Carrolan] makes a last minute check of the skies. At right, I begin by trying out one of each of the brews... it takes two of these little sample boards to be sure you've tried 'em all.