Text and photos by Jessica Buskirk
After a week of thick fog, snow, and blustery wind with the threat of more to come, we sat on the rock for the last time this season. Migration definitely slowed to a trickle up at Chelan Ridge HawkWatch, but we were blessed with spectacular views of some of our favorite birds one last time. Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, Bald Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Merlin, Osprey… and as the evening sun illuminated the valley beneath us we counted our last bird. Old reliable – one more Sharp-shinned Hawk zipped by us for a farewell as it headed south, totaling 1,374 birds counted.
The past two weeks have been an amazing whirlwind of counting, trapping, enjoying visitors, and surviving some crazy weather – the perfect end to a season. We had our annual Hawktoberfest celebration up on the mountain. Alumni, friends, and partners joined us for a great evening of celebration, story sharing, and silly costumes. The next day a great group of North Central WA Audubon society members joined us for some spectacular hawk encounters. Our first blanket of snow covered us that night, and ever since we have slowly been preparing for our last days. We couldn’t end without finally catching our first Rough-legged Hawk and one more Golden Eagle, though!
The 2016 fall season on Chelan Ridge has been more than I could have imagined. From the first sharpie I counted, held, and put in the hands of another, to the last that flew by us a couple evenings ago, every moment has changed my life. Even when days were long and cold, we all (the crew) have loved this season, and we hope that we have inspired and changed the lives of others. We all want to say a huge thank you to everyone that made this season possible for us – our amazing local Forest Service partners Janet Millard, Kent Woodruff, and the hardworking smoke jumpers, our SLC HawkWatch team, the Chelan Ridge alumni, and all our visitors and supporters. It was a great one to remember, and we couldn’t have done it without you all!