Gunsight Mountain Hawkwatch

The Mat-Su Birders and the Anchorage Audubon Society annually partner up to host this jaw-dropping event that is known as “The Harlan’s Hawk Capital of the World.” Saturday’s events are hosted by Anchorage Audubon, and Sunday’s potluck barbecue is hosted by The Mat-Su Birders. Details of the Potluck can be found on the Mat-Su Birders’ website.

This unique northern migration site, located 120 miles northeast of Anchorage, has been known as a premier location to see migrating spring raptors since the 1970s. This valley migration site is best known for its large concentrations of the Harlan’s subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk, but good numbers of Golden Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Northern Goshawks can also be seen from March – May. The count site is easily accessed by any vehicle via a highway pullout on the Glenn Highway.

The Weekend starts at 10:00 am on Saturday with a short talk about raptor migration and species identification by Bob Dittrick. Bob is credited as one of the discoverers of this stunning site of raptor migration, and we are once again pleased that he will be leading the count this year. Since hawks migrate using thermals to soar and glide, their activity usually increases as the day warms. This is one birding activity that does not require birders to be awake at a ridiculously early hour.

Directions

From Anchorage, take Hwy 1 (Glenn Highway) towards Palmer and continue on Hwy 1 until you reach the milepost 118.8 pullout. The main count site (April 1 – May 15) is located at either the 118.8 milepost or the milepost 120 pullout (GPS coordinates: 61.865761, -147.349418). This is roughly a 2 1/2 hour drive from Anchorage. From March 7 – March 31, the count site is located just one mile further east at the milepost 121 pullout (GPS coordinates: 61.881901, -147.336551). Both count sites are handicap accessible, however porta-potties are only available on site during the Official Hawkwatch Weekend.

What to Bring

  • Binoculars

  • Bird Field Guide

  • Water

  • Food

  • Sunscreen

  • Sunglasses

  • Seasonal clothes (it can be extremely cold in March and April with temperatures reaching Zero degrees Fahrenheit).  Long underwear, multiple warm layers (base layer, down jacket, winter pants, etc.), warm, thick gloves, winter hat, warm socks, winter boots, hand/feet warmers. The best advice is to bring everything you’ve got.

  • Camera

  • A Lawn Chair will make the day far more comfortable.

When to Visit

Camping near the count site is generally not advised due to cold temperatures and snow cover. However, lodging options are available within a 10-mile drive from the count site at Sheep Mountain Lodge and at Eureka Roadhouse. Lodging operations can vary by season so it is highly advised you make a reservation inquiry before you travel to the count site.