Autumn Hawk Watch at Mount Hood
Recently, I made a rugged drive in the mountains up to a ridgeline named Bonney Butte, near Mount Hood, where an organization called Hawk Watch observes, counts and tags birds of prey that are migrating south for winter. This event only happens during the months of September and October and is operated by a few volunteers and experts. Observation takes place every day during normal daytime hours, with the best times said to be during late September and early October, late morning through mid-afternoon.
While I was there, a red tailed hawk was brought over that had just been tagged. I may have had some mixed feelings about seeing a fierce, wild bird being captured and briefly showed off, but it was unharmed and freed shortly thereafter. Watching it fly away was pretty incredible. You could tell this bird was ecstatic to be flying again, the way it whipped through the wind playfully.
The project is for the sake of observation, education and conservation, and it is open to the public--if you're up for the adventure to get there! It's a great place to pack in a picnic, do some "birding," take in views of Mount Hood (on a clear day) and just hang out for a while. You might get to see a bird of prey up close for a moment, if you're lucky!
Driving Directions to Bonney Butte (4WD & high clearance recommended, although there always seems to be a town car that managed to make it way up there whenever I take these rough roads):
1) From Portland, take Highway 26 east past Government Camp
2) At the junction with Highway 35, head north on Highway 35; go about 5 miles
3) Turn right on Road 48 (signs for White River East Sno Park); go 7 miles
4) Sharp left on unsigned Road 4890; go 3.7 miles
5) Left on Road 4891 (signs for Bonney Meadows; this road becomes very rough after about a mile); go about 4.3 miles to a green gate on your left and a parking area on the right
6) At the gated road, walk past the gate and up this steep road for about 1/4 mile to a clearing at the top of the mountain
(If you prefer an easier drive and an all-day hiking affair, it is possible to park at the nearby Boulder Lake Trailhead [alternate route directions: instead of turning left at the junction with 4891 as described in #5 above, go straight onto Road 4881 for 2.5 miles, then left on Road 4880 for 4 miles to the Boulder Lake trail & parking area] and hike from Boulder Lake to Bonney Meadows Campground, then up to Bonney Butte)
For more information about Hawk Watch, visit their website: http://hawkwatch.org/