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Version 0.2 - aka work still in progress, please excuse any errors ;)
State Line Lookout, located in the Palisades Interstate Park, Bergen County, New Jersey (map) is one of the easiest of hawk watches to visit here in Northern New Jersey. It is barely a one minute walk from the parking lot 🙈 :) Even though you won't see that many migrating birds as in the other famous locations, Cape May for example, the ones you see, most likely will offer close(r) looks at eye level and/or from above. This is one of the reasons that brings many bird photographers to the Palisades!
- View from above on a juvenile Peregrine Falcon soaring above the Hudson River -
Each Fall, starting September to early November, between 9AM and 4PM, there are conducted (weather permitting) daily hawk counts from the Northern Lookout:
- Volunteer hawk watchers during a Fall migration at the Northern Lookout -
Most of the hawk counters offer great information on hawk identification and other bird related information/stories. At this time of the year, most of the fourteen species of hawks and two species of vultures can be seen at the State Line hawkwatch. Most of them are migrants that nest in New England and Canada, with several species, such as Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Ravens, Peregrine Falcon, Turkey and Black Vulture are also year-round residents in the park.
State Line Lookout is also a perfect place to view the foliage in the Palisades. In the peak season, views are really worth a visit to the park.
- Resident male Peregrine Falcon with Fall colors in the background -
Another reason that State Line Lookout became very popular with many bird photographers in the recent years, is a resident pair of Peregrine Falcons. Since the Spring of 2016, a young female (wearing a silver band on its right leg) bonded with a local male and are often seen at the lookout. On some occasions, this female offers a great looks, often flying very close to/over the visitors and sometimes even perching on stone wall running along the hawk watch. So far, she's been very "people friendly" and allows for great close-ups. But keep in mind, this is still a wild bird, so approach it like any other bird you encountered before. Never to close, giving it respectful space! Stay quiet! As with all wildlife, every day is different. On some days, you will find peregrines perched for hours in the same general area and on some days, they won't be visible at all.
The best spots to see perched peregrines are from the "Northern Lookout"
- "Dead Tree" a favorite Peregrine Falcon perch seen on the left from the "Northern Lookout" -
perching on the Dead Tree on the left (see map below):
- map courtesy of Google -
and from the "South Lookout", 3 weathered perches (see the map above):
- Peregrine Falcon on its favorite perch as seen from the "South Lookout" -
Do not limit yourself to photographing birds of prey only. During Spring and Fall migrations, there are many warblers feeding on nearby trees. On some days, shrubs and trees behind the State Line Cafe host large number of them, especially in the early morning. You might see some of them at the Northern Lookout as well. Just keep your eyes/ears open :)
With the increasing popularity of local falcons at this site, especially after the Winter 2016/2017, park rangers/police are on the lookout of any "harassment" of the wildlife. Even though many visitors are very respectful of birds, there were some unfortunate incidents with people trespassing the boundaries. Park authorities were notified and some trespassers got fined. This is a very frequented park, so keep in mind that there is always someone watching and any misbehavior will be quickly reported. If you see trespassers, or someone endangering the peregrines and/or other birds/wildlife, inform the employees at the State Line Cafe and/or call Parkway Police: 201-768-6001
Cooperation in the following park rules (http://www.njpalisades.org/regulations.html) and ABA birding ethics (http://listing.aba.org/ethics/) of all visitors to the lookout is greatly appreciated by those taking care of the conservation of endangered species!
State Line Lookout, can only be accessed from the Northbound Palisades Parkway, between exits 2 and 3. Here are GPS coordinates: 40.9897°N, 73.9061°W
Park is open from sunrise to sunset but on some rare occasions gate to the park can be closed in the morning hours. Unfortunately, closures happen unannounced.
Entrance to the park is free.
State Line Cafe:
- State Line Cafe and the Northern Lookout on the far right as seen from the parking lot -
situated near the parking lot, offers hot/cold beverages, basic food and restrooms. There are also portable toilets located on/close to the parking lot.
What to bring?
Hawk watching often requires spending a lot of time in the same place. For that reason, some bring foldable chairs to easy the wait for birds :)
Any lens above 400mm on a APS-C (1.6x crop) camera is good at this site but longer lenses will definitely give you more chances of getting a "better" close-up of. Frame-filling shots of perched peregrines require longer lenses with teleconverters. Bringing a tripod is also a good idea. For the most part of the day, there is little shade at the lookout therefore sunscreen is highly recommended.
For the latest bird related news from this site, make sure to check out the State Line Lookout Hawk Watch Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1493442824231198
Daily count on migrating raptors, not always updated on time, can be viewed here: http://hawkcount.org/month_summary.php?rsite=343
- Board at the Northern Lookout showing a current and historic count of migrating birds of prey -
If you are visiting State Line Lookout with migrating raptors in mind, remember that weather is a major factor in producing large flights: in general, the first or second day after a cold front, with winds out of the north/northwest, will bring the greatest number of birds.
You can also find a hawk watching site near you, here: http://hawkcount.org/sitesel.php
If you are eager for a hike, Palisades Interstate Park offers numerous hikes to choose from. Here you can find a map of the park and hiking trails: http://www.njpalisades.org/pdfs/map.pdf The most enjoyable time of the year for a hike, at least for me, is Fall and Spring. On the hot, summer days you may find a relief from the heat in the lower parts of the park, on trails closer to the river. Especially after 2-3PM as cliffs cast a shade on these trails and most likely there will be a "cooling" breeze coming from a Hudson River.
I hope you will find this guide helpful.
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