Raptor viewing in the Methow Valley spanned from Pateros to Mazama this weekend, during the 5th Annual Raptor Migration Festival. Pateros to Chelan Ridge field day was hosted on Saturday Sept 14th by the Audubon Society of Northcentral Washington, and Harts Pass field day was hosted on Sunday, Sept 14th by the North Cascades Basecamp.
It was an amazing day of sunshine, south winds, incredible viewscapes and great group of 30 enthusiastic birders. Birders were welcomed at the Basecamp for a pancake birding breakfast, and then carpooled up to Harts Pass with Kent Woodruff as our birding guide. The group casually observed 60 raptors throughout the day, including 22 sharp-shinned hawks, 7 merlins (one who caught and consumed a dragonfly on the wing), 4 goshawks, 4 prairie falcons, 3 golden eagles, 2 swainson's hawks, 1 broadwing hawk, 1 peregrine and many others... The group also observed horned larks, American pipits, ravens and clarks nutcrackers.
Kent helped beginner birders by discussing "shape and behavior" as the key components for raptor identification. For our two similar sized and shaped accipiters, the shrug-shouldered and sharp square tail helped remember the sharp-shinned hawk, while the C-shaped curve in a Coopers hawk tail helps distinguish it from its smaller but overlapping sized cousin.
The warm summer -like weather, a steady wind, and full visability with no clouds on any horizon, was an ideal landscape for a day of birding. The best advice given for the day, do not identify your bird til it is far in the distance; then your birdwatching friends can't disagree with your field ID when its gone.