Despite ancillary excursions into education, research and conservation politics, the principal function of Hawk Mountain remains to provide a spectator area for bird enthusiasts. On a good fall weekend (clear, cold and windy) the hawks over Kittatinny will draw better than the Pittsburgh Condors ever did. Among these spectators are flocks of Sunday drivers. These birding innocents, who cannot tell a hawk from a handsaw, amuse the sanctuary staff with questions about when the hawks will be fed and where can they see baby hawks. But there are always on the rocks, alone or in exclusive groups, hard-core hawk watchers, men and women who are there every week. They may have been making the scene for decades. They tend to be competitive life-listers ("I was in Thailand last week on business and picked up a very good hawk at the Bangkok airport"). Real buffs not only want to see good birds—for instance, a goshawk, of which only 60 or so appear each fall—but also to spot them first. With delight they call out a bird's identification and its position in the sky. Their pleasure appears complete if another veteran misses the bird or, in the parlance of the rocks, "blows a gos," confusing a small male goshawk with a large female Cooper's hawk.
Among the In crowd at Hawk Mountain, those with impeccable boots, foul-weather gear and spotting scopes, there is growing concern about the popularity of the sanctuary and the sport. "All the publicity and the clearing of trails and camping areas has opened up this place to the tourists," grumbled one veteran. "You get a bunch now that starts shouting when a crow comes over. My feeling is that this should be a place for hawks and the people who appreciate them. There is Disneyland for the tourists."
In short, hawk enthusiasts are not much different from the bleacher bums at Wrigley Field or the doggy crowd at Westminster or the veranda gang at Augusta. They are passionately addicted spectators, proud of their expertise and scornful of those who are ignorant of the proper form.
"My place is across from the post office at home," said a true hawk man, the proprietor of an upstate New York hardware store. "I watch the flag in front of the post office. When it's standing straight out with a northwest wind, I get restless. The only place I want to be then is here."