Chelan Ridge is one of my favorite places to watch hawks. The mountainous vista combined with close-up views of passing birds makes it a special place. The chance to see northwestern specialties, such as the Black Merlin, dark-morph Broad-winged Hawk, and Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk, separates the ridge from other hawk-watching sites.
During my last visit, I was rewarded with a picture-perfect view of a Black Merlin as it made several passes at a plastic owl decoy. My target bird at the ridge is Harlan’s Red-tail. The Harlan’s race is widespread and easily seen in winter in much of the West, but it’s more difficult to see on migration, so spotting it is an exciting treat.
HawkWatch International and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest count about 1,400 migrants of up to 17 species each year from late August to late October, weather depending. Raptor banding also takes place, and HawkWatch has outfitted Red-tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles at the site with satellite transmitters to provide information about migration patterns and wintering grounds. The forest along Black Canyon Rd. that leads to the lookout offers great birding; watch for grouse, Varied Thrush, Northern Goshawk, and other woodland species. — Jerry Liguori
Jerry Liguori is an educator for HawkWatch International and the author or co-author of three books about raptors. He also wrote about Yaki and Lipan Points in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, Hotspot Near You No. 196.