After long and thoughtful consideration, HawkWatch International is temporarily suspending operations at five of our HawkWatch research sites for the 2020 season. This difficult decision is not reached lightly, and is based on health recommendations regarding COVID-19, as well as recommendations from groups like the Bird Banding Lab and North American Banding Council. Scientists the world over continue to urge distancing and travel restrictions as the most effective steps to take in slowing spread and protecting communities, and most project that these steps will be needed into 2021 in a best-case scenario. As a science-based organization that hopes our science-based findings are heard and heeded, it seems important and prudent that we do the same, however disappointing doing so may be.
One of the unique aspects of HWI’s migration monitoring network is that a majority of our sites are located in remote wilderness areas. This means that field crew members don’t have regular access to services, and are living together in small, communal areas. This becomes a major source of concern for social distancing during a three-month season that regularly includes sub-freezing temperatures and inclement weather. The remote nature of many of our sites also poses elevated concerns in the event that anyone requires medical attention, something we were not willing to risk.
The HawkWatches that will not be operating for the 2020 season are: Chelan Ridge (WA), Bonney Butte (OR), Commissary Ridge (WY), Goshute Mountains (NV), and Manzano Mountains (NM). Thankfully, we plan to continue operations at HawkWatches at the Grand Canyon (AZ) and Corpus Christi (TX). These two sites are situated in a way that better allows for social distancing and medical access for field crew.
Fall migration counts are a core piece of our mission, but HWI is ultimately confident that suspending them for a year will not impact our long-term work, and will ensure the safety of both the hard-working field crew and the wild birds they study. It will also allow the HWI team time to improve operation plans at all of our sites, create new activities and content for visitors, and dig into our 30+ years of data and write some scientific papers.
Thank you for your continued support. We hope you will continue to follow this year's fall migration at the Grand Canyon and Corpus Christi, and join us at full capacity again in 2021. If you have questions about our decision, please contact us at .
Dr. Dave Oleyar
Director of Long-term Monitoring & Community Science
Image: Jesse Watson