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Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Lesson Plans > Field Trips > United States > Pennsylvania

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

I discovered the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton Pennsylvania while visiting family in Bucks County. I wasn't looking for a potential field trip destination; I was simply looking for a hike I could do with my four-year old son. I found both.

The mountain is a migratory bird preserve where volunteers watch for various raptors migrating north in the spring and south in the fall, and count the number of each type of bird. Numbers are posted in the visitor center, and also on the sanctuary website, so you can see how many of each type of bird was spotted. For instance, on Apr 23rd, 2017, 4 bald eagles, 9 sharp-shinned hawks, 13 osprey, and 302 broad-winged hawks (plus a few other birds) were spotted.

If you bring your class on a field trip here, wanting to view raptors, the best times are in the spring and fall (we were there in the summer, and only saw a few turkey vultures). Based on last year's statistics, it looks like mid-to-late April and mid-to-late September are the best times. Check with the sanctuary staff for more details.

The sanctuary website has a variety of suggestions for teachers for how field trip groups can be organized, and the fees for groups. Speaking of the website, this is my only complaint about the sanctuary - their website is not well designed. Some links open new pages, some links open Word documents, some open PDF documents, and there is very little notation to help you know what's going to happen when you click a link. Thus, you can click a link, and when nothing happens, you click it two or three more times before realizing that each time you clicked, it downloaded a Word document, or opened a PDF in another window. Very poor design.

However, moving beyond the website, there's nothing poorly designed about the sanctuary itself; it is a beautiful place. All the trails are very well blazed, the visitor center is clean and well organized, and the staff are both friendly and helpful.

The "Lookout Trail" is the most popular trail, and that's the one we took. There were several places along the trail where you can take a quick detour to an overlook point where you can see nice views. The trail ends at the North Lookout, which is a ridge where you have a wide open view of the area where migrating birds pass through. Caution your children/students to stay on the marked trail, and never cross over the railings/fences along the way. This is both for their own protection and the protection of wildlife.

Very near the beginning of the Lookout Trail there is a large plaque with pictures of the various raptors you might see, to help you identify the birds you might see at the overlook points.

The Lookout Trail is one mile long, so if you go straight out and back, it's two miles total. There are many other trails on the mountain, however, and it would be possible to spend an entire day exploring the preserve.

When you're done hiking, if you've got time (which we didn't), there is a large "Native Plant Garden" which (according to the volunteers) is also home to frogs and other animals, which makes it of more interest to children.

Location:  1700 Hawk Mountain Rd. Kempton, PA 19529

Note that there are two parking lots. The first lot is for the education center, and the second lot is for the visitor center and the actual preserve.

Lesson by Mr. Twitchell

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