The Rockfish Gap group keeps an eye on the sky

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AFTON, Va. (WVIR) – People gather on Afton Mountain to watch the seasonal migration of thousands of birds.

Each fall, more than 30,000 raptors migrate through the Rockfish Gap area.

“When I say raptors, I mean bald eagles and hawks and red-tailed hawks, ospreys and harriers,” said Victor Laubach of Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch. “They all migrate south by the hundreds or thousands.”

Laubach was one of many on Afton Mountain on Sunday, September 4, with his eyes fixed on the sky.

“We’re literally sitting here scanning the sky with our binoculars all day,” Laubach said. “It gives us a nice view from east to west so we don’t miss any of the birds.”

Laubach says this is the time of year when they see a peak in migration.

“We usually get four to eight or 10,000 a day in that third week of September,” he said.

They count all the hawks that parade, then enter the data into a national online portal.

“So we have forms that we use and we write down what we see,” Laubach said. “We count them every hour, we count them, we submit the numbers and species that we see every day to the online data collection portal.”

This information helps keep track of any changes in the bird community.

“We can monitor their population to see if their populations are changing and increasing or decreasing,” Laubach said.

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