Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project
HWI has teamed up with Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests to monitor and learn more about raptors migrating through the eastern Cascade Mountains of Washington within the Pacific Coast Flyway. HWI began standardized counts at the site in 1998 following exploratory surveys in 1997. The project runs from 24 August through 27 October (or whenever the snow forces the crew off the ridge). Counts typically range between 2,000-3,000 migrants of up to 17 species per season. The most commonly seen species are the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Golden Eagle, and American Kestrel.
In 2009, HWI conducted or co-sponsored 10 long-term standardized migration counts in seven states and Veracruz, Mexico. The primary objective of these efforts is to track long-term population trends of diurnal raptors throughout primarily western North America. The information gathered enables us to better understand the life histories, ecology, status, and conservation needs of raptor populations in North America. Raptors feed atop food pyramids, inhabit most ecosystems, occupy large home ranges, and are sensitive to environmental contamination and other human disturbances. Therefore, they serve as important biological indicators of ecosystem health. Moreover, due to the remoteness and widespread distribution of most raptor populations, migration counts likely represent the most cost-effective and efficient method for monitoring the regional status and trends of multiple raptor species.
HWI also began banding raptors at Chelan Ridge in 2001, following two years of exploratory banding by the Falcon Research Group of Bow, Washington. During HWI's first year of banding the crew captured more than 500 raptors of 11 species. In addition, we succeeded in outfitting three Red-tailed Hawks and a Golden Eagle with satellite transmitters, with additional birds outfitted in subsequent years. To view tracking maps and summaries for all HWI sateliite-tracked raptors, follow the link from the Conservation Science drop-down menu on the home page. HWI’s banding and telemetry operations provide additional valuable information about migratory routes, breeding and wintering distribution, and the variations and health of individual raptors.
In addition to gathering important scientific data, the Chelan Ridge project provides opportunities for the public to learn about the ecology and conservation needs of raptors. The public is always welcome at the site and are assured of a high-quality experience through on-site environmental education and interpretation conducted by a full-time, on-site educator, Forest Service personnel, and other volunteers. This educational effort is the key to long-term success in securing public understanding and action on behalf of raptors and the ecosystems upon which we all rely. Says project coordinator Kent Woodruff, a biologist for the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, "the joint project is good news for hawks, which in some cases still face challenges for survival, as well as for nature enthusiasts who like to see animals in the wild doing what comes naturally."
The Methow Valley Visitor Center in Winthrop also has a display with daily tallies of birds observed and brochures with directions to the site. Raptor identification guides are also available. Call them at (509) 996-4000 for more information.
Support for this project in 2009 was provided by Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests, the Fledgling Fund, the Kinsman Foundation, Kittitas Audubon Society, and HWI private donors and members.