With a pair of binoculars clutched tightly in his hands, Greenwich resident Michael D'Arcangelo was ready for the hawks.
Michael, 9, was one of the hundreds of bird enthusiasts who attended Audubon Greenwich's 14th annual Hawk Festival & Green Bazaar on Saturday, a celebration of the annual hawk migration that passes directly overhead Audubon's Quaker Ridge.
Though hawk spottings weren't as frequent Saturday as they normally are on a late September afternoon -- the wind was blowing out of the southwest, and hawks like to ride northerly winds as they travel south -- Michael reported seeing a red-tailed hawk in the sky.
He stayed for a live birds of prey show Saturday afternoon, which showcased an array of animals, including a turkey vulture and peregrine falcon, which use the many high-rises in New York City as homes.
When asked which bird was his favorite, Michael replied, "I think the eagle owl."
One of the largest species of owls, the eagle owl on display Saturday featured mottled brown feathers and amber eyes, which stared warily at a turkey vulture that circled over the crowd.
Luke Tiller, an avid hawk watcher, said the festival is a great chance for people to connect with nature.
"It's basically an opportunity to teach people a little bit about the environment around them," Tiller said.
The festival highlights success stories, such as how certain birds, like the osprey, have rebounded since population crashes in past decades, and how bald eagles are now nesting in Fairfield County, he said.
Quaker Ridge, one of about 200 similar hawk watches across North America, attracts thousands of hawks passing overhead each season. So far this fall, more than 16,000 have been counted.
"Basically, what it is is they're all migrating south after the breeding season," Tiller said. "Broad wings move in large groups around the middle of September."
Broad-winged hawks, a relatively small hawk with a dark brown body and white belly, make up the vast majority of the hawks that pass over Quaker Ridge, Tiller said.
The hawk-watching season typically lasts through mid- to late November.
Ted Gilman, an education specialist with the Audubon, said the area is like a funnel for migrating birds of prey.
"We are keeping track of one lane of a 12-lane highway," Gilman said.
Groups from around the country submit data to the website hawkcount.org, which compiles data from more than 200 North American hawk watch sites.
"We collectively sample the flow," Gilman said.
Jeffrey Cordulack, the Audubon's events and communications manager, said though the many environmentally friendly vendors and kids games at the festival regularly draw crowds, it's the live birds that bring people out in droves.
"Clearly, it's the live hawk shows that bring people out," he said. "We're excited to have another year to remind people we're up here in the backcountry of Greenwich."
Cordulack, who has been running the festival since 2005, urged people to be mindful of the natural environment around them by taking simple measures, such as using renewable energy sources and planting bird-friendly bushes in their yards.
"Audubon believes that bringing people out to experience nature first hand will make a lasting impression and inspire them to make changes in their personal lives and businesses," he said.
The festival continues Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.