A hawk watch north of New York City that regularly tallies the highest counts of any watch site in New York State.
By Tait Johansson | Published: 8/18/2014
In most years, observers at Chestnut Ridge record the highest raptor totals of any autumn watch in New York State. The site’s biggest attraction is the sometimes-spectacular Broad-winged Hawk migration in mid- to late September. Chestnut Ridge also gets good numbers of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks a little later in the season, Red-shouldered Hawks in late October and early November, and Golden Eagles and goshawks from late October through November.
As I walk up the trail leading to the watch platform in the morning, I often run into fall warblers and other migrant passerines. Seats on the wooden platform provide an expansive easterly view toward Connecticut and Long Island Sound.
Standardized hawk counts have taken place here since 1979. The Bedford Audubon Society hires a hawk counter and an intern every year, and the watch is manned daily from late August to late November, weather permitting.
Raptors are the stars, of course, but Chestnut Ridge is also a great spot to watch songbirds in the morning, nighthawks in the evening, and migrating hummingbirds and monarch butterflies. — Tait Johansson
Tait Johansson is a naturalist at the Bedford Audubon Society and the coordinator of the Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch. He was the official counter in 2000 and 2001.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Ridge at edge of deciduous forest.
Watch site is a short hike up an uneven, sloping trail. Sanctuary contains 6.6 miles of trails.
Black and Turkey Vultures, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks, Northern Goshawk, Red-shouldered, Broad-winged, and Red-tailed Hawks, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel, Merlin, and Peregrine Falcon. Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wood Thrush, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Baltimore Oriole, and other migrants. Rarities: Swainson’s Hawk, Sandhill Crane.
When to go
Autumn. Broad-winged Hawk migration peaks September 12-27. Best flights after the passage of a cold front and when winds are from the northwest, north, or northeast.
Wooden observation platform with seats. Hawk counter on site August-November and intern September-October. Bedford Audubon Society and nearby Westmoreland Sanctuary offer several field trips to Chestnut Ridge each fall. No restrooms, food, or water.
Nature Conservancy sanctuary. Free parking; no entrance fee. Open year-round. Hawk watch sponsored by Nature Conservancy and Bedford Audubon Society.
Bring a spotting scope, a hat with a brim, and sunscreen.
For more info
Bedford Audubon Society, (914) 232-1999.
Chestnut Ridge Hawk Watch
Chestnut Ridge Facebook page
Arthur W. Butler Sanctuary
New York City-area Rare Bird Alert, including Westchester County, (212) 979-3070.
About 21 miles from Chestnut Ridge in Rye, New York. Small area of salt marsh on Long Island Sound. Good for passerines and waterbirds.
Croton Point Park
17 miles from Chestnut Ridge in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Excellent for fall sparrows, other migrants. Grassland area especially good for open-country species.