Text and photos by Caleb Hansen
Few workplaces are as beautiful and inspiring as the austerity of the Bonney Butte HawkWatch in Mt. Hood National Forest. In the days it has been visible, Mt. Hood has been at the forefront of my imagination. The sight of an adult Golden Eagle effortlessly thermaling its way from the bottom of the White River drainage up through the top of the extinct volcano is why you do hawk counts. America’s sincerest beauties lie in its most untouched natural places. Unfortunately, the count thus far has been significantly stifled by the omnipresent smoke resulting from the firescape that calls itself the 2017 wildfire season thus far. If only some of the excess precipitation from this past winter would revisit the Pacific-Northwest.
Light is trapped in particularly curious ways while you’re in the thick of the smoke. The fires are the talk of the entire mountain. Local residents are asking us where we got our M-95 masks (from your local paint store!). Regardless of what your beliefs are towards the cause of these unprecedented flames and hurricanes, it is empirically evident that the totalities of these catastrophic events like Harvey and numerous 150,000+ acre wildfires are painfully expensive. In both the wallet and heart. The most vulnerable of us are involuntarily evicted from their homes. This list of vulnerables most certainly includes raptors.
The resident Goshawks here aren’t too different than the same ones who accompanied the Multnomah tribe on their hunting expeditions back before the 20th century. But their human company has dramatically changed in just the past 200 years. I’m waiting for the day when I realize I haven’t seen them in a couple days and realize that they’ve moved south. When you get to spend so much time with the hawks in this historic context with HWI, you’re enabled to gaze directly into an important part of their life history. Certain long-term averages in the statistical data are more daunting than others.
The audacity of a raptor’s character is even more awe-inspiring when you can visualize its migratory journey in entirety. They travel all the way from Victoria Island to El Paso into another continent (if you’re a Swainson’s Hawk!). The charge of such a geographically strenuous void, even in normal conditions, can instill the humblest sense of respect in anyone. My heart goes out to them in their travels.
Luckily, the full moon revealed that the winds are gusting south into the fire on this eve, and I can rest easy for the time being.