May 10, 2023—After 25 years, HawkWatch International has decided to end its long-term raptor migration monitoring efforts at the Chelan Ridge HawkWatch in eastern Washington. During that time, volunteers counted thousands of birds at the research site, thanks to strong partnerships with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, local Audubon chapters, and the surrounding community.
Executive Director Nikki Wayment said the difficult decision was made after years of careful consideration, including a close examination of the scientific value of the site and available resources. “Unfortunately, there is limited funding for this kind of long-term work, meaning that organizations like HWI must evaluate and prioritize where these resources go,” she explained.
Standardized annual counts began at Chelan Ridge in 1998 under the direction of HWI founder Steve Hoffman, in partnership with the USFS Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The goal was to monitor and learn more about raptors migrating within the Pacific Coast Flyway. It’s a goal Director of Long-term Monitoring & Community Science Dr. Dave Oleyar feels has been met.
“Our partnership with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to monitor migrating raptors and share information about raptor ecology, migration, and conservation of public lands has been a success for over two decades,” Oleyar shared. “During this time, hundreds of biologists developed field and outreach skills, and thousands of visitors joined our team to experience migration.” That is, of course, in addition to counting 41,682 birds to learn more about the health of raptor populations and the environments we share with them.
It’s success that Oleyar says wouldn’t have been possible without strong partnerships. “We are so grateful to the Forest Service, particularly Kent Woodruff, John Rohrer, Janet Millard, and Ana Cerro, for the years of partnership that have led to this success at the Chelan Ridge HawkWatch,” he shared. “We’re also grateful to the hundreds of biologists who spent hours counting migrating raptors. Finally, we want to thank you, the public, for joining us each fall to celebrate the magic of migration.”
The organization’s six other fall migration sites will operate as normal this fall. In the coming weeks, the organization expects to share more details about exciting plans for the future of the migration network. More information can be found here.
Dr. Dave Oleyar
Director of Long-term Monitoring & Community Science
Photo by Jesse Watson