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Meet some of the HawkWatch Crew at Commissary Ridge, WY

NOVEMBER 9, 2021

Artist Profile: Greg Kozatec

JUNE 7, 2021

Meet the Birder: Ryan Moritz

JUNE 25, 2021

Meet the HawkWatch Migration Crew at Commissary Ridge

NOVEMBER 4, 2021

This fall’s raptor migration is in the home stretch in the western U.S., where HawkWatch International has been running seven count sites in seven states, from Washington to Texas. We’d like to introduce some of the team from Wyoming’s Commissary Ridge.

Cody Allen, Commissary Ridge crew lead

Cody is in his third year at Commissary Ridge. Cody has worked with many kinds of birds but hopes to build a career around raptor conservation. His advice for those coming to visit the ridge? “Bring layers and prayers, it gets mighty cold up here!”

Frankie Vierela

Frankie is a first-time hawk watcher. She has experience in wildlife rehabilitation from her role as an avian clinic technician at the Avian Conservation Center in Awendaw, South Carolina. She also has fieldwork experience studying California Spotted Owls.

Georgia Coleman

Georgia is another new addition to the Commissary Ridge team. Georgia recently graduated from the University of Washington and is excited to get started on her ornithology career. Before joining the Commissary crew, Georgia worked with Common Ravens in Yellowstone National Park and Burrowing Owls in Oregon.

James Petersen

James is a HawkWatch International veteran, returning for his 5th year counting and his third year at Commissary Ridge. James has also counted at the Corpus Christi and Grand Canyon sites.

Kirsti Carr

Kirsti is in her second season with HWI’s Goshute Mountain crew. She has also hawk watched at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and worked as a technician on projects with Common Loons, montane songbirds, Red-headed Woodpeckers, Lesser Prairie-Chickens, and shorebirds.

Tori Thorpe, HWI field biologist

Tori started with HWI as a migration crewmember in 2017 and is now the staff field biologist, working on a wide range of research projects. Her introduction to raptor conservation began with California Spotted Owls, and her favorite raptors are Sharp-shinned Hawks. Tori holds a M.S. in Environmental Studies and a B.S. in Environmental Science. 

All photos by Jesse Watson and Tori Thorpe.

Read more about the migration crews on HawkWatch International's website.


How did you get into birding?

I’ve always had a general fascination with birds and wanted to answer questions like “How do they fly?” and “What are their feathers made of?” After getting into the University of Georgia and studying wildlife science at Warnell [the university’s school of forestry and natural resources], I had the opportunity to pick a focus course and naturally I chose ornithology. After gaining a good level of background knowledge I went on my first bird walk in 2018 and found out that I adored observing bird behavior—but also sparking a birding interest in others!

Can you tell us about how Black Birders Week started?

Black Birders Week was orchestrated by a group of young Black professionals who could sympathize with what happened to Black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park. While sharing our own stories of discrimination within our respective fields, we decided an event should take place that truly showcased the greatness that Black people have provided to the birding world. It was a week of activities that highlighted the authenticity of Black experiences in nature, and necessity for diversity in STEM [fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

What do you love most about your birding community? What would you like to see change, either in your own community or other aspect of birding?

I love the ability to discuss the wonders of birds with people of all ages, races, and creeds. Birds are an amazing way to bond with strangers and get others stoked about the outdoors, even if they don’t have an initial interest in wildlife. I would like to see more opportunities for birding clubs and minorities to interact with one another, whether in schools or community entities, like libraries and camps.

You lead a lot of bird walks for kids and youth. How do you think younger generations connect with nature and each other?

One thing I love about youth walks is the sheer fascination with EVERYTHING. They are just learning about the world around them, and I think it’s important to incorporate nature into that exploration. The outdoors can not only help children learn about themselves but also facilitate healthy coping mechanisms and an understanding of behavior and interactions as they are navigating their own ever-changing developments. 

What's next for you and birds?

My future hopes for birding and me involve reaching out to schools and community programs to provide structured learning through bird exploration. I would love to continue sharing the knowledge of the outdoors with youth and families so that they may continue to carry and teach future generations. 

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