HWI began monitoring the spring raptor migration through the northern Wasatch Mountains of Utah near Jordanelle Reservoir in 1997, with the hope of monitoring long-term trends in populations of raptors using this part of the Rocky Mountain Flyway. The count site used is located on a hilltop about midway up the eastern slope of the Wastach range at the north end of Heber Valley.
Between 1997 and 2002, the project ran from 24 February through 7-19 May each year. During this time, the Jordanelle flight typically included 4,000-5,000 migrant raptors of up to 17 species. The most commonly seen species were Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks, Golden and Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and American Kestrels. On a daily basis, flight activity was highest between 10:00 A.M. and 1:00 P.M.. The seasonal activity pattern at the site typically included two peaks. The first, modest peak occured from mid-to-late March, when passage of eagles and Red-tailed Hawks was highest. The second, higher peak occured in mid-to-late April when passage of most other species was highest.
In 1998 and 1999, HWI also began a banding program near the Jordanelle count site; however, because these initial efforts met with poor success, no banding occurred in 2000. In 2001, HWI conducted additional exploratory banding at a new site further up on the ridge north of the count site, which showed considerable promise. However, difficulties recruiting spring banders and logistical difficulties accessing the site early in the season precluded expanding the effort in 2002. Moreover, in April 2002, HWI's Science Committee (which includes selected staff, board members, and outside experts) decided to drop banding at Jordanelle in favor of focusing resources on other more worthwhile projects.
After considerable additional deliberation, HWI's Science Committee decided to discontinue this project entirely in 2003. The primary reasons for this decision include: 1) difficult flight to monitor due to poorly focused, foothill flight lines; 2) high variability in counts likely reflects inconsistent flight dynamics; 3) educational objectives for the site have not been realized due to the lack of a successful banding program and difficult, weather-related, logistics for the first half of the season; and 4) higher priority interest in focusing limited resources on enhancing fall migration-monitoring efforts and finding better spring-fall matched project pairs with full count and banding capabilities.