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Hawks migrating past Chelan Ridge

A goshawk captured on Chelan Ridge keeps an eye on its captors.

The Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project is under way for the fifteen year and the fall migration has begun.

The new five-person crew is carefully recording each migrant hawk that passes the count station; capturing, assessing, and banding a sample of several hundred hawks, falcons, and eagles each year; and sharing what is being learned with the people that visit.

The hawks are flying south, chasing prey that is also migrating. The crew has already seen ospreys, eagles, four falcon species, three woodland hawk species called accipiters, and two soaring hawk species, called buteos.

The first broad-winged hawks are expected in about two weeks. Beyond raptors, many other birds have been seen already in migration. So far this year, the crew has noted warblers, thrushes, vireos, and flycatchers.

The crew also saw a major migration of several hundred night hawks leaving the valley for South America. Three species of swifts and several woodpecker species, including a large flock of Lewis's woodpeckers have also been recorded heading south.

Merlin on a hand   Hawk released
A crew member holds a young merlin.

  In 2009 a crew member released the first broad-winged hawk captured and banded in Washington.

The research crew is all new to the project, and new to Washington. Two young biologists, Kathryn and Mike, are from Canada, having just completed a course of study in Wildlife Technology from Sir Sanford Fleming College in Fergus, Ontario. One biologist, Felipe, arrived last week from the Washington DC area after working on a project banding songbirds on the east coast. Dusty, a biologist from Wisconsin was studying to be a dentist, when he realized recently that his passion was birds of prey. The most experienced crew member, Chadi, drove here from New Mexico where she was contemplating her next career move, and decided to return to hawk watching for another season.

Ann Port holds a young sharp-shinned hawk by its long legs.

The US Forest Service and HawkWatch International formed the partnership for the Chelan Ridge Raptor Migration Project in 1997. It has been successful beyond what either organization expected with more than 30,000 raptors identified and documented (including a new species - broad-winged hawks, that were not known to be regular migrants through Washington), 6700 birds of 7 species banded and released, and more than 4000 visitors welcomed to the site, including many school groups.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the site near Cooper Mountain in the southern part of the Methow Valley Ranger District. Brochures are available from the district office as well as daily updates about the project. The site is open every day from 9:00 to 5:00 through the end of October. When visitors come, warm clothes, binoculars, and hiking boots are recommended. A treat for the crew is never refused.

The second Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival on September 17th will highlight the project and provide a fun event for people to learn about all aspects of the Chelan Ridge project, hawk identification, and bird ecology. The festival is hosted by the City of Pateros in the City Park there and is free for all participants. For more
information, go to