This year’s Goshute Mountains HawkWatch crew contains a wide range of experience and a lot of passion! Two members, Steve Seibel and István Balázs (Balu), are HWI vets and the other three bring a wide range of raptor and bird experience to the team. We’re happy to have such a fantastic crew and know they’re looking forward to several more months of hawkwatching together. If you’re in the area, make the trek up to the migration site where our crew would love to meet you and watch hawks together!
Steve has been counting hawks with HawkWatch for 10+ years at various sites across our migration network.
Balu was a Manzano 2015 crewmember and traveled all the way from Hungary for a second season to observe more North American raptor species. He has worked extensively with Saker Falcons in Europe but just couldn’t get enough of North America’s Prairie Falcon.
Lauren diBiccari has spent several seasons as a lead bander at Manomet, MA and several other seasons banding passerines in North and Central America. She also has a wealth of experience in avian rehabilitation where she worked with raptors quite often.
Ellen Grim has spent 3 years in Uganda in the peace corps teaching biology and other topics and has interned for the Veracruz River of Raptors Project and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.
Shelly Kremer rounds out the crew of 5 with extensive bird experience from around the world. Most recently she was employed as an endangered species biologist for the USFWS in Hawaii but has spent time working with birds in Saipan and throughout the United States. She is thrilled to return to hawkwatching after assisting at a migratory raptor trapping station in Provo, Utah near the beginning of her career.
Read on below about Shelly Kremer’s first tale from the blind as she returns to her HawkWatching roots.
Little Lion-hearted Bird
by Shelly Kremer
It was early in the trapping season. We were on a sky island in Nevada searching for migrating hawks. Everything was set. Mist nets had been erected, bow nets were set to spring into action, our blind sufficiently camouflaged. All we needed were the birds. It had been 20 years since I sat in a blind waiting for the hawks to fly by hoping that I might hold one in my hand. I felt 23 again with high hopes and my eyes wide to the sky. Since it was still early in the season migration movement was slow and therefore trapping was as well. We had started early in the morning. We had a few American Kestrels fly in, look at our sets and continue to move south. The conversation ebbed and flowed between the three of us as we got to know each other, patiently waiting to trap a raptor. It was like fishing but in reverse, air instead of water.
It was now late in the day, we were bored but hopeful. In the distance I noticed a flurry of movement. I put my binoculars to my eyes and peered out to see the action. Through my binoculars I saw a male Sharp Shinned Hawk (sharpie) chasing a Clark’s Nutcracker. It was the equivalent of watching a lightweight fearlessly take on a heavyweight. I saw the sharpie pursue the nutcracker through the tops of trees, in and out of branches, switching back and forth and over and under. At one point they both paused and landed near each other in a snag. I imagined them both sitting breathless, tired from the pursuit but both knowing life and death hung in the balance. The sharpie sprung from his resting place and the pursuit was on again. The sharpie chased the nutcracker for another five minutes. Through my binoculars I watched in awe not sure who to root for knowing both lives hung in the balance. One must die in order for the other to live, I was mesmerized and torn.
The sharpie finally relented, the nutcracker would live another day. But it was late in the day and the sharpie would most likely go hungry for the night. Then, the sharpie flared his wings and came in for a closer look at our set. Before he knew it, he was caught in the mist net becoming immediately tangled. Jesse ran out the blind door first with me hot on his heels. We both arrived at the mist net, Jesse on one side me on the other. The sharpie’s mouth was agape and his feet open and ready to pierce our skin with his talons. There was no fear in his eyes only rage. He was so tiny yet so strong and brave, I was in love. We extricated him from the net and I cradled him in my arm. He stared back at me. My heart melted in that moment. As we stared at each other, I realized I was holding the gaze of a kindred spirit.
I gently cradled him in my arms as we walked him back to the blind while I whispered reassurances to him. We would take measurements and place a metal band with a unique number code before we would release him back into the wild. He was less than 100 grams. I had forgotten how small sharpies were his tiny legs thinner than a pencil. He was a juvenile male, his first migration, his first time out in the world on his own. His yellow eyes stared fiercely at me, his little lion heart pounded as we processed him. I held him gently in my hand ready for release. I opened my palm to release him back into the world with a hope in my heart that this little lion hearted bird would be a survivor, a kindred spirit.