Text and photos by Will Britton
Commissary Ridge HawkWatch is entering it’s 4th week and things are starting to heat up raptor-wise. Weather-wise, things are seriously cooling down after a warm first couple weeks. In typical Commissary Ridge fashion, we have donned layer upon layer to count migrant raptors. The cold weather has brought with it more birds, as we had our first two days over 100 migrants on the 17th and 18th. A late flight of Turkey Vultures and Swainson’s Hawks helped make up a 75 bird push in the last hour and a half on Sept 17th. Of special note that day was a new single-day site record for Ospreys, 13, beating the previous record of 12. Broad-winged Hawks have started to trickle through. The next two weeks are your best bet to see them migrating through southwest Wyoming!
This year’s crew is made up of Commissary veteran Will Britton and three new hawkwatchers, Emma Gregory, Jojo Morelli, and Tori Thorpe, who combine to bring a wide array of bird experience to Commissary Ridge. We hope you will visit soon! You can read about each of the hawkwatchers below.
Emma Gregory grew up in Idaho where she has worked for Intermountain Bird Observatory for the last several seasons. The past two falls she has worked banding migrating songbirds at Lucky Peak, outside of Boise. She spent this spring and summer surveying for woodpeckers, Mountain Quail, and Northern Goshawks in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. During the winter she works as a baker and enjoys traveling around the west and birding with her dog Borah. She is excited to be counting raptors at Commissary Ridge this fall as they journey south.
Will Britton, an Arkansas native, is entering his third season of hawk-watching, having spent one season in southern Belize and last year at Commissary. Apart from raptors, he also especially enjoys shorebirds and marshbirds, and actually loves all birds. He spent last summer surveying wetlands in Missouri and this summer banding forest birds in southern Indiana, but he always finds it hard to leave the mountains. He enjoys the frequent snow of Commissary and tries to ski as much as possible in winter. Will is eager to experience the site in a new capacity, as trapping is added to the normal counting duties at Commissary Ridge.
Joanna Morelli is originally from Williamsburg, Virginia where she was spoiled with spectacular views of osprey and bald eagles on the James River. This past May she graduated from James Madison University, where she banded Northern saw-whet owls (Project OwlNet) for three fall seasons. The past three summers she has worked with a variety of nesting seabirds on three different islands for Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (Falkner Island, Connecticut) and Project Puffin (Matinicus Rock, Jenny Island, Maine). She has a strong passion for the conservation of nesting seabirds, especially roseate terns. This is her first season working for HawkWatch International and she is thrilled to be able to observe migrating raptors.
Tori Thorpe is originally from Baltimore, Maryland, but fell in love with the West when she volunteered on a greater sage-grouse habitat restoration project in California. Since her completion of a Master of Science in Environmental Studies, Tori has focused on her interest in avian research and conservation. She has worked with critically endangered Mississippi sandhill cranes and California spotted owls. Tori is looking forward to fine-tuning her raptor ID skills, and learning how to trap and band diurnal raptors.
Come visit us during Migration Day at Commissary Ridge on Oct 7.