The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch
40 degrees 04' N, 78 degrees 43' W, within 4 miles of Central City, PA. Elevation (2850')
The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch Experience
The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch is a privately-owned mountaintop watch site on the border of Shade Twp, Somerset County and Napier Twp Bedford County. It offers a 180 degree view to the East, off the Allegheny Mountains. From the hawk watch site the valley drops 800ft into Central Bedford County and can provide stunning vistas of up to 20 miles, (Blue Knob to the North, The I-70 corridor to the South and the Bedford Narrows to the East). GPS location: 40 degrees 04' N, 78 degrees 43' W, within 4 miles of Central City, PA. Elevation (2850')
The main purpose of the hawk watch site is for the monitoring and counting of migrating raptors, (hawks, eagles, falcons, vultures, etc), waterfowl insects and visiting song birds. This current site was developed in 1998, but we have been conducting migration counts since 1989. Counts are made by Allegheny Plateau Audubon Society members seven days a week during the migration seasons. The Spring migration count starts in mid-February and continues until mid-May depending on weather and access to the site. The Fall migration count is conducted from mid-August to Thanksgiving weekend.
Other activities occur occasionally at the site and can include moth lightings, owl bandings, astronomy viewings and other outings that explore this rare microclimate and ecosystem. Check out the events page of our web site for these activities.
The site is opened and closed at the counters discretion, but the count is usually conducted every day from about 9:00am to 4:00pm unless unfavorable weather conditions, (such as precipitation, fog, storms), are occurring since the raptors will not migrate under these conditions and it is not worth the counters' efforts to conduct the count.
We welcome the general public to the site when we are counting or for outings. The general rule is, if the blue gate at the entrance of the site is closed, the site is not open and visitors are not allowed. We will make every effort to post any deviations in our schedule on the news ticker of our website.
If you wish to visit the hawk watch here are some important points to consider:
This site is the western most migration counting point in PA. Raptors, (hawks, eagles, falcons, etc…), are counted as they work their way through the spine of the Appalachians. The actual amount of birds that can be seen in a day vary greatly, even from hour to hour. The flight of raptors at the site can be influenced by the weather. A wind from the East can “push the birds into the mountain” so they fly over our heads giving what can be a spectacular display. Their flight during other winds is variable. Prepare as much for seeing birds as for not seeing birds. If you have traveled far and are disappointed, let us know and we can suggest some other places nearby to see and visit.
The site is kept in a natural state, because of its delicate ecosystem and microclimate. The terrain is relatively flat, but the ground is uneven, causing tripping dangers, and drops off steeply at its edge. Care should be taken with children and those with mobility issues. There are parking areas close to the site with handicapped parking available. A portable restroom is available although not necessarily handicapped accessible.
On a typical day, there will be a counter who is responsible for sighting, identifying, and recording raptors that are migrating through the area. These records are sent to several organizations who use them to compile data on their populations and movements. There will probably be others enjoying and participating in the count. Using binoculars, these people scan the skies and call out when they find a bird for the counter to identify.
Birds fly anywhere in the sky. Sometimes close overhead. Sometimes far out in the valley and partially obscured by haze. It can be frustrating at first when someone calls a bird and you have trouble finding it, but you will get the hang of it. Relax and listen to their instructions and eventually you will find the birds.
Birds do not fly during any steady precipitation and inclement weather, so there will be no flight and the watch might close for the day. It can be really unpleasant up there in bad weather so it is probably best to not visit us if poor weather is pending.
Another word on weather… it is unpredictable here. Expect it to be colder and windier than most areas in the region. Plan to bring extra clothes to deal with the weather. Sun protection is also important.
- Visitors are invited to bring chairs, blankets etc… and make a non-alcoholic picnic. You are expected to take home everything you bring in. We welcome pets with responsible owners, (clean up after them and keep them quiet and under control). Loud noises can cause raptors to fly out of our range, so we ask visitors to keep themselves and their pets from being loud.
Please note, although level, there are trip and fall hazards on the site. Care should be taken with young children and those with mobility issues.
Golden Eagles and the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch
The Allegheny Front Hawk Watch is known for the relatively large number of Golden Eagles counted during the Fall and Spring raptor migration. These eagles are just as beautiful and inspiring as their bald cousins and we have been blessed with some of the greatest looks at them at the hawk watch.
In the fall of 2006, researchers from Powder Mill Nature Center and the National Aviary in Pittsburgh initiated what we call the Golden Eagle Project. This project used traps to catch golden eagles and equip them with GPS and cellular tracking location transmitters. With transmitters attached, the eagles were released and their location tracked. Since then, several other eagles and hawks have been fitted with transmitters. The resulting telemetry data collected has revealed much about these raptor populations. This data shows the range of the Golden Eagles extends from the Mid-Atlantic states to the Northern Canadian/Labrador coasts.
Two of the eagles caught and tagged by the researchers were released at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. Some of the hawk watchers were able to see the eagles up close and watch their release. If you search the internet for Eastern Golden Eagle pictures, you can usually find the photos people were able to take of these eagles.
Click here to view a webpage about the project from one of the project's researchers, Todd Katzner, PhD.
Marcia Bonta, a naturalist writer who also participated in this project but at another site has written three great features: "Golden Eagle Days 1", "Golden Eagle Days 2", and "Golden Eagle Redux" about this project. You can view these features on her site. Click here to view.
The Spring Raptor Migration Count at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch began in early March and will continue through the first week of May. Find details and directions for visiting the hawk watch on this page.
Directions to the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch
From the South (Route 30, PA Turnpike, etc.)
From the Reels Corner intersection of U.S. Route 30 and PA Route 160, go North on PA Route 160 into Central City, (approximately 4 miles). As you enter Central City you will pass a BP station on your left as 160 becomes Lambert Street. Continue on Lambert Street. BE CAREFUL… about 1/4 mile into Central City, Route 160 will take a sharp left but Lambert St goes straight ahead. Continue straight on Lambert St, (now SR 1018). After a rough railroad crossing, Lambert St becomes Shaffer Mountain Road. Continue straight on Shaffer Mountain road for 0.8 miles then make a right hand turn onto Lambert Mountain Road (SR 1035). Take Lambert Mountain Road for approximately 2.9 miles into the little village of Daley, (look for a small, white church on your right). Beyond the church, you come to an intersection. Although the main road turns left, continue straight up a narrow road, (it is still Lambert Mountain Rd). Pass the Daley Cemetery, which will be on the right. Approximately 0.5 miles up the narrow road (which will become dirt and chip) there will be a blue metal gate on the right. This is the entrance to the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. If you have a bus, this is as far as you can go, otherwise, if the gate is open (and it will be when the site is staffed), go down the lane to the parking area (approximately 0.25 miles from the gate). The watch site is at the end of the parking area. (Handicapped individuals are welcome to park on the site. Follow the hp parking signs.)
From the North (Route 56, Johnstown, etc.)
From PA Route 56 in Windber, Take PA Route 160 South into Central City, (approximately 10 miles). As you enter Central City, PA160 becomes Main St and will lead to a stop sign at the intersection with Sunshine Ave, (@ First Commonwealth Bank). At this point continue straight through the intersection staying on Main St. Main St will shortly end at a "T" where you will turn left onto Shaffer Mountain Road. Continue on Shaffer Mountain road for 0.8 miles and make a right hand turn onto Lambert Mountain Road (SR 1035). Take Lambert Mountain Road for approximately 2.9 miles into the little village of Daley, (look for a small, white church on your right). Beyond the church, you come to an intersection. Although the main road turns left, continue straight up a narrow road, (it is still Lambert Mountain Rd). Pass the Daley Cemetery, on the right. Approximately 0.5 miles up the narrow road (which will become dirt and chip) there will be a blue metal gate on the right. This is the entrance to the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch. If you have a bus, this is as far as you can go, otherwise, if the gate is open (and it will be when the site is open), go down the lane to the parking area (approximately 0.25 miles from the gate). The watch site is at the end of the parking area. (Handicapped individuals are welcome to park on the site. Follow the hp parking signs.)