This fall marks 20 years of counting raptors at Commissary Ridge HawkWatch. All those years ago, we saw a gap in coverage of long-term raptor migration surveys in the Central Rockies between Montana and New Mexico. After conducting surveys across the state, Commissary Ridge came out on top with high numbers, a wide diversity, and an easily accessible site.
This year our crew has counted 320 individuals of 17 different species. Red-tailed Hawks make up more than a third of the count so far, with Golden Eagles coming in second at 16% of the total count.
Meet the 2022 crew making this year’s count possible, and welcome back three returning Commissary Ridge veterans!
James Petersen, Crew Lead
James Petersen is originally from New Jersey. He has counted for Hawkwatch International for six years—at Corpus Christi HawkWatch (2017), Commissary Ridge HawkWatch (2018, 2019, 2021), and Grand Canyon HawkWatch (2020). In the spring, he enjoys showing people the specialty birds of southeast Arizona and spent this past summer surveying for Northern Goshawks in California’s eastern Sierra mountains in Northern California.
In his free time, James enjoys traveling and birding across the US. His favorite raptor is a tie between a Northern Goshawk, Merlin, or dark morph Broad-winged Hawk.
He is looking forward to another good season of hawkwatching at Commissary Ridge and, in the wise words of last year’s crew leader Cody Allen—Prayers and Layers!
Frankie Vierela, Banding Lead
Franki is one of the returning crewmembers for Commissary Ridge, this being her second season at this site. She has worked with raptors for many years in both wildlife rehabilitation and fieldwork settings. Frankie spent four years working with California Spotted Owls and spent the past spring/summer working with the Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned Hawk. She is excited for another season filled with raptors, campfires, games, and movie nights with the crew. Frankie doesn’t have a favorite raptor, but she does love seeing the plumage variations in the western Red-tailed Hawks. Frankie can't wait to see what Commissary Ridge has in store for the crew this season, and as last year's crew lead once said, she is bringing layers and prayers to handle the Wyoming weather.
Coburn graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a BS in Wildlife and Conservation Biology. Since graduating, he has mainly studied birds, including Sage-Grouse, bobwhite, Marbled Murrelets, and eastern and western passerines. This is his second season counting at Commissary Ridge HawkWatch. His favorite raptor is the American Kestrel because they’re small, scrappy, and always fun to watch dance in the wind. In the winter, Coburn tries to ski every day. In the warmer seasons, he likes to draw, play guitar, and run a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for his friends back east.
This is Elly’s second migration season with HawkWatch International and her first season at Commissary Ridge! Elly graduated from the University of Montana in 2021 and has worked on multiple bird projects since, including monitoring Spotted Owls in NM and Common Loons in WY. She looks forward to seeing many spectacular raptors migrate this fall and braving the cold with the Commissary crew! Her favorite raptor (at this moment) is the Northern Harrier.
Katelyn is originally from Ontario, Canada, where she earned her diploma as a Fish and Wildlife Technician. Inspired by falconry, Katelyn discovered the ecological significance of wild raptors and moved to British Columbia to kick start her raptor research and conservation adventures. She has since contributed to restoring Northern Spotted Owls and Eastern Loggerhead Shrikes through wild population monitoring and captive breeding and release. She has been practicing falconry for seven years and assisted with projects studying Coopers Hawks, Northern Saw-whet Owls, and Bald Eagles. Katelyn’s favorite raptor is the Osprey. This is Katelyn’s first hawk-watching season. She is excited to live in the wilderness of Wyoming, learn from her crew members, hopefully see Goshawks up close, and contribute to HawkWatch International’s conservation efforts! When she’s not working, Katelyn enjoys fishing, camping, birding, and music.
If you want to chat with our Commissary Ridge crew, join our “Friends of Commissary Ridge HawkWatch” Facebook page. If you are looking for our most current counts or information on how to visit our sites, check out this page on our website.
This blog was written by Sammy Riccio, HWI's Donor Engagement Coordinator.
You can learn more about Sammy here.