MTJ04: Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch
Elevation: 2102 ft.
Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is one of over 200 hawk watch sites in North America monitored by the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA). The primary mission of this hawk watch is to collect raptor count data during fall migration. A small group of local volunteers man the watch August 15 through November 30 and visitors are welcome! Peak migration occurs in the final two weeks of September and first two weeks of October. During this time hundreds to thousands of migrating raptors can be observed per day.
Fourteen different raptor species migrate through Rockfish Gap. Broad-winged hawks fly over in the greatest numbers, but other hawks, such as Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and Red-tailed hawks, can also be seen. Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are regularly seen here. Peregrine falcon, American Kestrel and even Merlin also migrate through here as well as Osprey and Northern Harrier. In addition to raptors; songbirds, common nighthawks, swallows, and even insects such as Monarch butterflies and dragonflies are observed here in migratory flight.
In addition to the birds, the easily accessible, mountain-top location provides a panoramic view of Rockfish Gap, the Shenandoah Valley to the west, and the Piedmont Region to the east. Although most of the birds fly well above eye-level, many do come in close for awesome photo opportunities!
Binoculars, sun screen, food/drink, and a chair or blanket are recommended.
Physical Address: 185 Afton Cir, Afton, VA 22920
Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is held on the grounds of the Inn at Afton, located on the southern side of Rockfish Gap, just above where I-64 (exit 99) intersects with Rt 250, Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The watch is usually conducted from the west end of the Inn.
From the Previous Site on the Thomas Jefferson Loop of the VBWT:
From Lake Albemarle, return to Rt. 614/Garth Road and turn left. Continue on Rt. 614/Garth Road for 1.4 miles to Rt. 810 at White Hall. Turn left on Rt. 810 and follow it 4.5 miles south to Crozet. In Crozet, follow Rt. 810 into SR 240 south 1.4 miles to US 250. Turn right on US 250 and follow it 1.3 miles to I-64. Go west on I-64 for 7.6 miles to its intersection with US 250 and Skyline Drive. Turn south into the Inn at Afton. West of the Inn’s parking lot (an extension of the parking lot) is an open paved area atop a grassy hill.