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Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science

December 26th, 2017 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the second of a 3-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field excursion to the Methow Valley, as part of their fall Natural History CourseBelow is writing by Zoe Wadkins, graduate student in the North Cascade Institute’s 17th cohort

It was twenty-eight degrees out and declining. Seventeen of us gathered around a lone fire while Andromeda twinkled in the Eastern sky. Our second night atop Chelan Ridge with HawkWatch International held my cohort and I captivated by firelight – humbled by the elements, the beauty of raptor migration, and the relentlessness of the folks who perch atop these ridges in hope of conveying an important story to the world.

Graduate students stand atop Chelan Ridge

Kent Woodruff retired Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service taught bird aerodynamics from our lookout post

For a more in depth account of our experience with HawkWatch, please see Brendan McGarry’s post Migrating Raptors over Chelan Ridge.

Though welcomed into hearth and home, and gifted rare opportunity to partake in this season’s raptor counts, us graduate students were the ones now being thanked. Thanked by the people who devote a portion of their lives to banding and counting hawks in the name of science. Thanked for our presence and interest in their migratory bird studies. Thanked for committing ourselves to education, and for imparting our experience to the outside world.

» Continue reading Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science

Natural History Field-Excursion: Migrating Raptors over Chelan Ridge

December 18th, 2017 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the first of a 3-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field excursion to the Methow Valley, as part of their fall Natural History Course. Below is writing by Brendan McGarry, graduate student in the North Cascade Institute’s 17th cohort

The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was frost coating the inside of the rainfly. I could hear the crepuscular stirrings of my fellow campers, and gave myself a silent pep talk to get moving despite the chill. This was going to be an exciting day after all, we were here to see raptors. 

My cohort and I were part way through the field section of our Natural History of the North Cascades course when we trundled up to Chelan Ridge Hawkwatch Station. It was only October, but we’d seen the hints of winter coming to the high places. The hawks we hoped to see migrating were another hint that the seasons were changing.

The rugged terrain stretching down toward Lake Chelan; photo courtesy of Brendan McGarry

The Chelan Ridge Hawkwatch station was established in 1998 in a partnership between the Okanogan-Wenatchee District of the US Forest Service and HawkWatch International. The goal was to learn more about the raptors migrating through Washington, down the Pacific Coast Flyway. Here, starting in late August, ending in late October, intrepid biologists scan the skies, and count hawks. With luck, they also lure them into traps to band the birds and release. While we were grumbling about the cold, they were already out doing their jobs.

The first bird, an immature Cooper’s Hawk that zipped by during breakfast, was spotted by Kent Woodruff. This was apt because he was our host. Kent, a retired Forest Service biologist who established the station, was full of stories about the wildlife of the North Cascades. Yet, never was he more animated than when he spoke of the birds overhead.

» Continue reading Natural History Field-Excursion: Migrating Raptors over Chelan Ridge