Rockfish Gap group keeping an eye on the sky

Published: Sep. 4, 2022 at 3:23 PM EDT
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AFTON, Va. (WVIR) - People are gathering on Afton Mountain to watch the seasonal migration of thousands of birds.

Each fall, more than 30,000 raptors migrate through the Rockfish Gap area.

“When I say raptors I mean bald eagles and falcons and red tailed hawks, osprey, and northern harriers,” Victor Laubach with Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch said. “They all migrate south by the hundreds or thousands.”

Laubach was one of many on Afton Mountain Sunday, September 4, with eyes on the sky.

“We literally sit here and we scan the sky with our binoculars all day long,” Laubach said. “It gives us a nice view of them from east to west to not miss any of the birds.”

Laubach says this is the time of the year where they see a peak in migration.

“We usually get four to eight or 10,000 per day during that third week of September,” he said.

They count any hawk that files by, then enter the data into an online national portal.

“So we have forms that we use, and we write down what we see,” Laubach said. “We count them every hour, we tally those up, we we submit the numbers, and the species that we see for each day on the online data collection portal.”

This information helps keep track of any changes in the bird community.

“We can monitor their population to see whether their populations are changing and going up or down,” Laubach said.

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