by Barbara Summer, Board Member

Looking for incoming raptors at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch site - Photo Credit: Jake Bramante
Looking for incoming raptors at the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch site – Photo Credit: Jake Bramante

We are so fortunate in the Flathead Valley to have the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch site right out our backdoor (and up the hill a bit…). I often look at the passion I have for being on the ridge and monitoring the migrating raptors. What is it that drives me to keep returning and that desire to see just one more raptor flying its path? It is a relatively short season and busy with activity. The wonder of watching Sharp-shinned Hawks attack the owl; not to mention the possibility of seeing over 100 sharpies in one day, or watching sharpies and Cooper’s Hawks flying side by side for a great study in their differences. The busy days have their own special quality and challenge, as the birds emerge like popcorn popping from the gap. And then there are those special days when they fly right over the ridge and are so very close.

I always end the season with some lasting scenes in my mind. So far this year it has been a Black Merlin that attacked the owl 10 times—what an incredibly gorgeous bird! And then there was the immature Goshawk (a very large one) that came into the owl with wings totally spread wide, breast and belly facing us and talons reaching down for the owl; a WOW moment. Finally, two days ago, I was moving to different locations on the ridge due to the cold and had a Prairie Falcon lift up over the edge to end up right in front of me eye to eye. It only lasted a second before it screeched and veered off, but it was awe inspiring.

I could go on and on about all the wonderful moments on the ridge. Dan Casey, by founding this site, has given joy to many, many people, myself included. So finally, I just want to say thanks to Dan and thanks to all the wonderful Hawk Watchers who share this passion.