Having never visited the Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch in nearby Greenwich, Connecticut, I was pleased to make its acquaintance on an outing with the Queens County Bird Club yesterday. Audubon Greenwich was the first environmental education center opened by the Audubon Society, and it has been inspiring nature lovers since 1942. Seven miles of trails through varied habitat, a beautiful visitor’s center, and the hawkwatch are three great reasons to get to Audubon Greenwich, which is just over a half-hour north of Queens and barely over the border from New York State.

We started early, walking the trails through weedy fields and reveling in the sheer number of sparrows (I saw nine species), Pine Siskins (everywhere), kinglets, Palm Warblers, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. The habitat was great and the birds were abundant which is a great recipe for a fun morning.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Pine Siskins

As nice as the birds were the foliage was nearly as nice. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows all combined with the remaining green and the brown of dead weeds to produce a pleasing palette for the eye. It made me wonder if Monet ever thought about painting autumn leaves instead of water lilies.

But we were there, of course, mostly for the hawkwatch, which, once the sun heated everything up a bit, was well worth the visit. Though Quaker Ridge does get lots of raptors and an impressive variety it does lack the regular, crowd-pleasing, close fly-by. Most of the birds stay distant, working neighboring ridges, or high up in the blue sky. Despite the difficulty inherent in finding and identifying hawks when they are distant Luke Tiller, the resident counter, does a good job at making sure people at least know what species is in what part of the sky. While we were there, and we stayed until 3 PM, the species seen were American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Black Vulture, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Cooper’s Hawk. Sharpies were the most abundant by far with dozens moving through and the rest all stuck in the single digits except for Turkey Vultures.

Red-tailed Hawk at Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch

Turkey Vulture at Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch

American Kestrel at Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch

Sharp-shinned Hawk at Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch

My only real frustration was in missing the single fly-by Evening Grosbeak though the Orange-crowned Warbler we spotted made up for it a bit, as did enjoying the day with folks from the Queens County Bird Club and running into some folks that am more familiar with from the online world, like The Diabolical Catherine Hamilton and the aforementioned Luke Tiller.

Take the trip to the Quaker Ridge Hawkwatch – you won’t regret it!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.