Meet the 2023 Crew: Grand Canyon HawkWatch

Arizona’s tagline is “The Grand Canyon State,” and although we may be biased, we think it is a fitting title. The Grand Canyon offers not only incredible recreation but also happens to be home to our Grand Canyon HawkWatch. The park is even considered an Important Bird Area, in part thanks to our 33 years of research counting migrating raptors in the canyons.

We hope you come for the scenic views, resident condor sightings, and migrating raptors, but stay for the incredible crew. We are thrilled to have three new folks join the HWI team! Although they are first-timers at an HWI site, they all come with strong experience in environmental education, which is especially valuable at this site, which sometimes sees over 1,000 visitors each fall. Keep reading to get to know this invaluable group of biologists!

Andrew Bechdel

Andrew recently worked his first full hawkwatching season at Tussey Mountain in Pennsylvania, and he is excited to continue pursuing his passion for raptors and hawkwatching with HWI. After graduating from Lock Haven University in central Pennsylvania, Andrew worked as an environmental educator for various state agencies, non-profits, and universities. In his free time, he enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, and more casual birding. His favorite raptor is the Golden Eagle because of its ferocity and toughness. He looks forward to observing western raptors, especially Swainson’s Hawk (and hopefully a Prairie Falcon and Ferruginous Hawk!) and utilizing his background in environmental education to engage with visitors at Yaki Point. 

Tamara Russo

Tamara Marián Russo’s passion for raptor migration started in 2018 when she first went to the River of Raptors at Veracruz. She felt close to those raptors because she is also a long-distance migrant. Tamara was born in Argentina but is a Mexican resident. She has worked at the River of Raptors in Veracruz as an environmental educator and managing the observatory while she started to train her Raptors ID skills. Doing outreach within communities is fundamental for Tamara. She believes collaborating by the interconnectivity of the migration corridor is a key to conservation. During this season, Tamara is looking forward to increasing this hawkwatching community, increasing her birds’ life list, of course, learning from others with more ID skills, and being amazed by a new culture and an epic place. It’s hard for Tamara to choose one favorite raptor, but she has a special love for Goshawks and Peregrine Falcons.

Josh O’Conner

Josh O’Connor is an Arizona native and has easily become a Grand Canyon enthusiast. He recently graduated from Northern Arizona University with degrees in biology and nutrition. This past summer, Josh worked in the Canyon doing fish population sampling, looking for endangered Razorback Sucker, and doing conservation outreach along the river corridor. He also did work with invertebrates during his undergraduate degree and taught ecology labs to incoming freshmen. Josh looks forward to familiarizing himself with all the different raptor species, as this is his first hawkwatching season, learning from his crew members about these cool birds, and adding to conservation efforts. Outside of conservation, Josh likes to climb, boat, and hang out with his dog for fun. His favorite raptors are the California Condor and the Northern Harrier.

If you need help planning your trip or are curious about how the count is going throughout the season, join our “Friends of Grand Canyon 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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