Snickers Gap Hawk Watch

Description

Snicker’s Gap provides year-round access to ridge-top deciduous forest and is a good stopping place to look for woodland birds such as pileated and red-bellied woodpeckers, cedar waxwing, and the occasional ruffed grouse or wild turkey. The abundant wildflowers around the parking area attract a number of butterflies including eastern tiger and spicebush swallowtails as well as a variety of skippers, sulphurs and whites.

Snicker’s Gap is at its best from September 14 – 21 when thousands of migrating birds of prey stream past overhead. The area was established as a hawk-watching site in 1990 and counts have taken place every fall since. The most widespread species seen is the broad-winged hawk, which, pending on the weather, may occur in the 1000s or 10,000s. Other species frequenting the lookout include red-tailed, sharp-shinned and Cooper’s hawks, northern harrier , osprey, bald eagle, American kestrel, merlin, and peregrine falcon. Each fall supports the opportunity to spy a few true rarities, especially later in the season. Golden eagle and northern goshawk have appeared annually, but rough-legged and Swainsons hawks are more particular about gracing birders with their presence.

Numerous other species use the ridge top as a migration corridor, including migrant passerines such as warblers, vireos, thrushes and tanagers and, occasionally, migrant waterfowl. Monarch butterflies and dragonflies also migrate along the ridge, providing food for the migrating American kestrels and broad-winged hawks.

Directions

Physical Location: 20 Miles West of Leesburg, Virginia, USA

Coordinates: 39.11535, -77.84645

From Northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area, travel west on Virginia Route 7 to the intersection with Virginia Route 601. Make a left turn and an immediate right turn into the public commuter parking lot. From Winchester, travel east on Route 7 to the intersection with Route 601, make a right turn and an immediate right turn into the public commuter parking lot.

From the Previous Site on the Front Royal Loop of VBWT:

From Sky Meadows State Park, return to US 17 North and continue 1.3 miles to US 50. Turn left on US 50 and travel west for 1.1 mile to Rt. 601. Turn right onto Rt. 601, following it as it winds 10.8 miles to a commuter lot on your left just before SR 7.