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The Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was founded in 1934 to protect birds of prey that had previously been killed en masse from an exposed position on the Kittatinny Ridge of the Appalachian Mountains. Since then, it has been an important scientific research station by counting migrating birds of prey and providing this key data to raptor researchers and conservationists worldwide.
Hawk Mountain trains interns from around the world who return to their home countries to carry out research on their local raptors. I came to Hawk Mountain specifically to find beautiful pictures, hiking several miles up and down their rocky trails for the best views. This picture was taken on a trail that runs along a forested ridge about an hour after sunrise.
The sun was peeking through the fall foliage in just the right way to produce a nice sunburst. I used a tripod to allow a long 0.3-s exposure at the small aperture (f/22) needed to get the sunburst. Fall is the busiest season at Hawk Mountain, as people come from all around to watch birds of prey as they fly by; during peak migration, hundreds of raptors fly by each day, sometimes in groups, called kettles, that number in the hundreds. On the day I captured this image, I sat at the lookout for about half an hour, during which four golden eagles flew by. The people around me were very excited!
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Dimitri Vasileiou • Editor