One frosty October morning, I climbed a winding mile-long path to the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Eastern Pennsylvania. Laurie Goodrich, the director of conservation science, was already on watch, staring down the ridge as a chilly wind swept in from the northwest. She has been scanning this horizon since 1984, and the view is as familiar to her as an old friend. “Bird coming in, naked eye, slope of Five,” Good​rich said to her assistant, using a long-established nickname for a distant rise. A sharp-shinned hawk popped up from the valley below, racing by just above our heads. Another followed, then two more. A Cooper’s hawk swooped close, taking a swipe at the great horned-owl decoy perched on a wooden pole nearby. Goodrich seemed to be looking everywhere at once, calmly calling out numbers and species names as she greeted arriving visitors. Like the hawks, the birdwatchers arrived alone or in pairs. Each found a spot in the rocks, placed thermoses and binoculars within easy reach, and settled in for the show, bundling up against the wind. By 10 a.m., more than two dozen birders were at the lookout, arrayed on the rocks like sports fans […]

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