Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch

Important Notices

COVID-19 & the VBWTBefore heading out to visit a site on the Virginia Bird & Wildlife Trail, be sure to check if that site has any COVID-19 policies or closures in place. This information is typically posted on a site's own website.

Description

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.

Notes:

  • The Hawk Watch occurs seasonally August 15 – November 30. The best time to view migrating hawks is between 9am and 3pm. Please check the Hawk Watch’s website for more information.
  • The Hawk Watch is closed during inclement weather (rain, snow, or thick fog).
  • The Hawk Watch site is on the grounds of an old inn that is no longer in operation. Visiting outside of the Hawk Watch season or after dark is not recommended.

Directions

Physical Address: 185 Afton Cir, Afton, VA 22920

Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch is held on the grounds of the former Inn at Afton (now closed), located on the southern side of Rockfish Gap just above the intersection of I-64 (exit 99) with Rt 250, Skyline Drive, and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The watch is usually conducted from the northwest corner of the Inn.

 

Location & Directions

View on Google Maps

Site Information

  • Site Contact: Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch Coordinator Vic Laubach: 434-249-2927, laubach@virginia.edu
  • Website
  • Access: Free, Hours of Operation: August 15 - November 30, 8am - 5pm (Aug.- Oct.) and 9am - 4 pm (Nov.)

Birds Recently Seen at Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch (as reported to eBird)

  • Canada Goose
  • Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  • Chimney Swift
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Killdeer
  • Black Vulture
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Osprey
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Cooper's Hawk

Seasonal Bird Observations

Facilities

  • Food
  • Parking