Meet the 2023 Crew: Manzano Mountains HawkWatch

This is an exceptionally exciting year for the Manzano Mountains HawkWatch because the Raptor Research Foundation conference is hosted in Albuquerque, New Mexico this October! If you are a raptor researcher attending the conference, we hope you put aside some time to visit our crew in the mountains. Our team will definitely take a trip up and welcome you to come along. And for folks of the general public looking for a time to visit, October 17th-21st may have the ridge crawling with lots of raptor experts to help you with IDs.

So who are the people manning the Manzano Mountains HawkWatch this fall? Keep reading to meet this group of bird nerds.

Elly McManus

Elly is excited to be back for her third fall migration with HawkWatch International! She has previously worked at Chelan Ridge and Commissary Ridge HawkWatch, and is stoked to be at the Manzanos HawkWatch this year. Since graduating from the University of Montana, she has worked on a number of avian conservation efforts, including projects with Mexican Spotted Owls, Common Loons, and Puerto Rican Sharp-shinned Hawks. Fall migration is her favorite time of the year, and she is looking forward to being back on a mountain watching birds speed south, cooking good food with the crew, improving her rudimentary harmonica skills, and welcoming visitors to the beauty of raptor migration. Her favorite raptor is the Northern Harrier.

Carrie Coonan

Originally from Southern California, Carrie moved to Scotland for both her bachelor’s in Ecology & Conservation and a master’s in Animal Behaviour at the University of St. Andrew, where she observed the foraging methods of carrion crows for her thesis. She recently finished a season on the Farallon Islands as a seabird research assistant, where she became immersed in a world of guano and regurgitated fish. After facing the wrath of dive-bombing Western gulls, Carrie feels prepared and excited to work with raptors. She is keen to use her skills gained from extracting rhinoceros auklets from mist nets for raptor handling and to get a close look at some Peregrine Falcons, her favorite raptor. Her hobbies include surfing and SCUBA diving, but she is looking forward to venturing inland and witnessing her first raptor migration season.

Dalton Sonnenberg

Dalton Sonnenberg comes from Peoria, Arizona and recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Wildlife Conservation & Management. This monitoring season, Dalton is really looking forward to further honing his banding skills and getting up close with birds he has only been able to see at great distances. Birdwatching has been a part of Dalton’s life since he was in 1st grade as his grandfather is also an active birder; however, he also loves looking for all sorts of other animals like reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Dalton’s other non-wildlife hobbies include running and playing the piano. His favorite raptor is the Western Screech-owl because he got to band one this summer, and it was the nicest and cutest little owl who was also surprisingly cooperative during the entire process.

Mia Cinello-Smith 

Mia Cinello-Smith is a recent honors graduate of Boise State University in Biology with an emphasis in ecology, evolution, and behavior with a minor in Environmental Studies. Most of Mia’s previous research experiences have been centered around conservation and restoration in the Intermountain West, with volunteer experience handling and banding Barn Owls. This is her first season hawkwatching, and she’s most looking forward to learning how to better identify raptors and enjoying the outdoors with their team. In their free time, they enjoy reading DC comics, playing video games, editing media, and spending time with friends and family. Their favorite raptor is the Great Horned Owl.

If you need help planning your trip or are curious about how the count is going throughout the season, join our “Friends of Manzano Mountains HawkWatch” Facebook group! There you can chat directly with our crew and other bird nerds excited about the fall count.

This blog was written by Sammy Riccio, our Communications Manager, as well as our 2023 crewmembers. You can learn more about Sammy here.

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