During the final week of August, HWI biologists Dave Oleyar and Jesse Watson headed to north-central Washington to meet the crew and assist with getting the Chelan Ridge HawkWatch up and running. Over the next week the 5-person crew, Jesse and Dave, and our long-term partners at the U.S. Forest Service spent their days constructing camp, trapping arenas, and starting the fall count. The first days of setup are about transporting gear, including yurt and trapping blind parts, from a distant storage site and the physical assembly of camp. They are, however, also about building comradery within the team and setting the tone for the season.
There is something special about being in a space where everyone shares the same passion. The Chelan Ridge crew comes from all over the country and yet all share a mutual love for raptors. But that is not the only thing the Chelan crew shares—they have also bonded over a mutual interest in Dungeon and Dragons during game nights!
During these first weeks of the season, the crew has come together like a well-oiled machine. This was evident during setup, especially in building the yurt which serves as an important communal space to keep crew members warm in the autumnal chill. As they started building the yurt, the team learned that an important structural piece had been lost/misplaced during the early and snow-filled 2019 take-down. Despite this little hiccup, the team quickly shifted to other tasks while obtaining a replacement, and then finished building their office, kitchen, and social space for the season. To celebrate, Dave, Jesse, and the crew spent their night playing guitar and singing songs like “I Like Birds” by The Eels from inside the cozy yurt’s walls.
The Chelan Ridge team also welcomed an enthusiastic group of students from Whitman College during the early weeks of counting. Good vibes, great visitors, and some great bird diversity with multiple sightings of Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, and even an adult Goshawk are all signs of more good things to come at Chelan Ridge.
So who are these 5 rad female biologists you will meet if you visit Chelan Ridge this year? Let us introduce you to them!
Nicole Richardson, Crew Lead
Nicole comes from Ontario, Canada. She has been working with birds of all kinds for eight years, but her true love is raptors. She's wanted to visit a HawkWatch site for several years now, and is excited to finally be here!
Zoe graduated from McGill in Montreal, Canada with a degree in wildlife biology. She began her raptor career working migration season at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Zoe has continued to gain experience working with Burrowing Owls and Snail Kites. She is looking forward to seeing new raptors and morphs that she hasn’t seen before!
Elly is a recent graduate of the University of Montana. She has previous experience in environmental education and wildlife positions. Most recently, she worked with the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies studying Mexican Spotted Owls. This is the first time Elly has worked at Chelan Ridge, but she has previously visited as a child growing up in Washington.
Erin is from Orange County California. She spent one previous fall migration season at Golden Gate Raptor Observatory where she gained experience counting and IDing raptors. Erin has also worked with other bird species, banding and monitoring Greater Sage-Grouse and surveying songbirds and waterfowl.
Paula is coming to the Ridge from South San Francisco. This is her first migration season with HWI, but she has previously counted in the Marin Headlands with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. Additionally, Paula has worked on Spotted Owl surveys in California. She is excited to experience working at a site in the northern part of the Pacific Flyway this season.