Hawk Mountain

Discussion in 'Special Sessions, Events, and Tour Announcements' started by Rapman1959, Jun 11, 2005.

  1. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    Hi,

    Has anyone been there to take photographs? It is a major migration route for raptors. If you have, what lens or lenses did you use?

    The web site is www.hawkmountain.org

    Anyone from western PA know of any good site for a day of shooting?

    Thanks for the help Adolfo
     
  2. twig

    twig

    745
    May 23, 2005
    Hello,
    I have been to hawk mountain in PA, in the Blue Mountains.
    IT has two major migratory seasons, one that already past, I think May was it, and then a much bigger one in September I think. Just be cognizant of the schedule because when the migration is on, there are 100X as many subjects to photo.

    When I went, all I saw were vultures, but what is cool is that you are even with or above them, leading to some neat shots.

    [​IMG]
    here is a 50% crop [​IMG]


    This was taken wit the 70-200VR lens with a 1.4 TC on my D70. MY advice would be to get a long lens. You hike about 100 yards to the first lookout point, and then another mile or two total through the trails, so it's not too much walking, though bring a good bag because parts are steep and you need both hands to navigate. Also watch out for slippery rocks on the floor. The 70-200VR fits the bill quite well, though if I went during big migration season and had big money I would bring the 200-400VR.

    Nice scenery no matter what, this was the 17-55DX lens, yeah I know, what ever happened to fill flash twig...
    [​IMG]

    Also, the best times are between 10-2 I think, and look ahead for the times for their shows, I Think they feed semi captive birds in an auditorium, which might make for cool close up shots (and perhaps require the 17-55 lens.

    In general the light is quite good, so f/2.8 isn't critical, but if you intend to get anything sharp out of a moving bird you want fast AF-S or HSM focusing. You are sitting on rock outcroppings like those pictured at bottom, so there is little place for a tripod, you have to hand hold or perhaps use a monopod.

    When I went it was about 2PM ( a little late for the captive show), and they had about 14 sightings of things on the memo board, but we only saw this one vulture for perhaps 10 minutes. I shot maybe 20 bad pictures then one or two keepers. Ironically this picture (the first one I posted) has gathered me more praise than anything else, people in my dad's office find it very soothing and like the OOF characteristic of the background.

    The Sept? (check but some time in the fall) migration is the big time to go, and the place is crawling with migrating raptors.
     
  3. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    Twig,

    Thanks for the information. Sept or Oct looks like the time to go acording to there web site. By the way very nice shot. I have the 70-200 vr lens which obviously would be easier to carry but it sounds like the 200-400mm VR lens is the way to go. So you think a monopod would be better than a tripod? I can attach a RRS bh55 head with a side kick on either.


    Again thanks for the info

    Adolfo
     
  4. twig

    twig

    745
    May 23, 2005
    Adolfo,

    Let me know when you are going to go and I will see if I can meet you (if it is on a weekend). That fall migration is supposed to be stellar, place just crawling with raptors.

    The places to set up are boulder outcroppings, so I think you would go crazy trying to shorten legs and finding good places to put the tripod. There are a number of different places, but all involve climbing over/around a few man sized bounders and I wouldn;t want to deal with a tripod.
    I ended up climbing out farther for better views and cradling the 70-200 in my lap. Though I bet a monopod would work.

    Now, for a monopod, I think a ball head is overkill.
    Check out the RRS site for their suggestions for mating a swivel joint to a clamp for a monopod, I think this is better. You can twist the pod from side to side anyway, all you need in a head is to control the elevation of the lens
    http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/tutorials/monopods/index.html

    However, since I don;t use a monopod or a big lens, I would get some more learned advice before worrying. Just the big ball head seems like extra weight and hassle you may not want, though it's nice to have a tension adjustment for easier movement of the lens once you get in place. That alone may make the ball head preferable for tracking fast flying birds.

    Now, when I went there I left almost ready to burn the CC for the 200-400. Whne you photo birds I think you jsut want length all the time. If there was a 800VR for $10k I would want that, etc.

    So, yes, bring the big glass, esp if you want close ups. The pic I showed was at 280mm, and as close as I expect you can get to a bird unless it attacks you personally. Behind and above you are trees, so they cannot really get right on top of you, and this was taken at the end of a rocky outcropping. So, I would consider a 200-400VR WITH a 1.4TC if possible.

    Of course, with your D2X you can crop a lot more and retain detail than I could with this D70 shot.

    Throw the 12-24 uin your pocket for one or two close ups, and it you want ot save on weight, skip the 70-200 (I cannot believe I am saying this, as I love this lens above all others, but I don't own the 200-400)

    I have never tried, but I wonder if a fill flash with somethign like the "Better Beamer" might yield better results.

    Finally, if you feel overwhelmed I will meet you and use your 200-400 for you, giving you full credit for any photos.

    I was carrying my 70-200 and 17-55 and glad not much more. I also almost lost the 17-55 out of my bag while going over a rock outcropping, which really put the butterflies in my stomach. If you are bringing all that glass try to bring along a friend or the wife to help you tote and port things around rocks (ie, hold this steady please while I jump down and then hand it to me)
     
  5. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    Twig,

    Thanks again. I'll be planning to go on a weekend, so I'll keep you informed. May be if there is interest we could get a couple of more people to go as well.


    Talk to you later Adolfo
     
  6. Let me know when this fall you are plannign to go I would be interested
     
  7. I will go as well. Just keep us informed and create separate topic when the time comes. Thanks in advance !
     
  8. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    That sounds great. I'll post it when we get closer. I'm thinking mid late september

    Adolfo
     
  9. The key to Hawk Mountain--or any [eastern] Hawk watch during fall migration--is to watch the weather reports and a) try to go on a warm, sunny day...the hawks prefer warm thermals to fly; and you'll be happier photographing when its warm! and most importantly b) watch the forecast for reports of NORTHWEST winds. That's when the hawks fly in numbers. Different hawk species migrate at different times; Broadwings are at their greatest in mid-september; Sharp-shined and Cooper's a bit later, early to mid Oct. Red-tails are even later, late Oct-early Nov. You can see a chart from last season here: http://hawkmoun.vws0101.fast.net/cgi-bin/count/viewdata.cgi and there's more general info here:

    http://hawkmoun.vws0101.fast.net/default/the_migration.htm

    I'd also recommend against a tripod at Hawk Mtn; its very, very crowded there on a good migration day and its very difficult to predict where the birds will fly by; mobility is better. A handheld VR lens like the 200-400Vr would be nice ;-) A monopod would be a good choice as well.
     
  10. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Count me in too. I've never shot at Hawk Mountain, and frankly I've had some pretty bad days with the binocs too despite going on days that should have been good. But I'm going to persist! The raptor species count on the HM site can let you do some advance planning depending on what you want to shoot. But the weather is much more important. The folks at HM say the best days have NW winds one or two days after the passage of a front. And needless to say I've seen relatively few birds on one day and found out later that there were 500 broadwings on the other. :cry: It would be best to be flexible and plan on very short notice, but that may be impossible for some folks.

    I think long glass on a monopod is essential to get any detail. The 70-200VR with the TC17 or 20 IMO would be the shortest feasible setup. A 300 with the same TCs would be better, and, if you have or can rent, borrw or steal one, the 200-400VR with TCs would be ideal.

    I'll follow this thread to see how and when this gets organized, because in addition to the raptors I would enjoy meeting the folks who have signed on.

    Thanks for doing this.

    Gordon
     
  11. We go to Hawk Mtn every year near the end of October.The longer the lens the better!! I have to go the weekend I am off so it is hit and miss sometimes. I do plan on being there this year and it would be great to hook up. Late October is when I will go again because I will be away for the 1st 2 weeks of October this year. There is always a lecture in the office at night that is very good too! We joined as members and get the newsletter so I will post who will be there when I find out. Also Cabellas is 5 miles away and just a great place to buy outdoor gear! Here are a few shots from last year;


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  12. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    George - fabulous shots!

    I love the two landscapes, and the vulture pictures a great too. But hopefully when we all get up there we can do a little better than vultures! :)

    Gordon
     
  13. Gordon,

    Yeah, like I said it is pot luck with what you get! Sometimes it is fantastic if a cold front is around but other times it is just dead!
     
  14. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    Hello everyone,

    Well it is Sept and I was thinking about making plans to go to Hawk mountain. I'm looking at 2 different dates. The weekend of 9/24 or 10/8. Is anyone interested in getting together on a Saturday for a day of shooting? Let me know what you all think.

    Adolfo
     
  15. Adolfo,

    I would be up for October. However I don't know if I can do much with 70-200VR :(
     
  16. i may be a player on this as well
     
  17. Rapman1959

    Rapman1959

    160
    May 7, 2005
    Dubois PA
    I'll try to plan for the weekend of 10/8. Maybe we can meet Sat morning for a day of shooting. It is about a 3 hour drive for me so anyone familiar with the area that can point me to a descent hotel I'd appreciate it. Hopefully we can get a group together.

    Adolfo
     
  18. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    Hi folks -

    Lot's of good info has already been posted, but here is a key quote from the Hawk Mountain web site - "Call the Info Line for an update on weather conditions (610-756-6000, opt 7). Remember, the very best flight days occur two to three days after the passage of a cold front, when northwest winds blow." That means that it might be best for folks who can be flexible to go on a weekend when the weather looks good. Picking a weekend now may be necessary for some folks, but it will be a crap shoot.

    Personally I want to try to go in September when there are still lots of Broadwings. It would be good to coordinate through this forum in mid-week about the weather report and go on weekends that look promising. The only downside to this is that the place is mobbed on days like that. Weekdays are better for those who can pull it off.

    I'm not sure that mid-day is the best time. I think it depends on species. Broadwings like warm thermals, but other species just fly through. I'm going to give Hawk Mountain a call and I'll report what I find out.

    Be prepared to hike to the Norht Lookout as it is by far the best most days. Only part of the one mile trek is moderately hard. One great benefit of the North Lookout is that is where the staff watchers sit, and they give a running commentary about what is going one.

    Hope to see as many of you as possible there on a great day!

    Gordon
     
  19. Gordon Large

    Gordon Large Guest

    I called Hawk Mountain and they said 10am to 2:30pm has the most birds coming through, but at this time of year there are birds all day. Eagles tend to come through later in the day, say about 4pm.

    Gordon
     
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