In the last year, I’ve attended monthly meetings with the Okanogan County Broadband Action Team. The monthly meetings are open to the public and address opportunities to provide reliable, affordable internet access to rural areas. This does not always involve an internet connection to the home. In our rural area, “affordable internet access” is simply identifying what people need and creating resources to meet those needs.
Many people do not know how to create an email address to log in to a website to consult with a health care provider, pay a bill, check road conditions, find notifications for emergencies, or enjoy a video chat with a loved one. People need to know how to navigate a digital world to access basic health, employment, and education resources, in addition to emergency notifications.
In a recent broadband meeting, the North Central Washington Tech Alliance presented their efforts to provide community education and funding towards basic computer skills and digital access. The program is funded by Community Health Network of Washington, the Washington State Department of Commerce, and Thriving Together NCW. The website, ncwtechhelp.org, offers assistance in getting a free or affordable device, connecting to the internet either at home or through a public Wi-Fi spot, offers free classes in basic computer literacy, and personal assistance for digital support. During the month of September, NCWTech is providing training for “digital navigators” for community organizations.
In the Methow Valley, the Pateros Brewster Community Resource Center in Pateros is the only place I am aware of that offers a digital navigator to the community. Since 2021, the center has hosted an AmeriCorps volunteer to provide in-person training and assistance for basic computer skills. This year, Francisco Vargas is the Americorps Tech Center Navigator. The Technology Center is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m., and is located at 169 Pateros Mall, Suite A. For more information, visit paterosresource.org, or call Gene Dowers, Executive Director, at (509) 923-7460.
And now to segue seamlessly from digital navigation to bird navigation. We’ve long known that birds use celestial cues such as star patterns to navigate by night. When avian night vision is interrupted by bright spotlights, birds become disorientated. Visit the Methow Dark Sky Coalition website, methowdarksky.org, for simple guidelines for outdoor lighting that will protect migrating birds.
September through October is when the birds fly south for the winter, because it’s too far to drive. We have unique access to Methow Valley ridgelines with amazing views of migrating raptors by day and songbirds at night.
To find the perfect overnight birdwatching campsite, visit the Methow Valley Ranger District office. You’ll want a campsite near a ridgeline to view the hawk migration, and a meadow where the songbirds will come to rest after a night of travel. Plan on an evening with a full moon to observe nighttime migration of songbirds. There is a campfire ban, so dress warmly and enjoy uninhibited views of the night sky.
In the past, Hawkwatch International (HWI) hosted visitors at the Chelan Ridge to talk with scientists and observe migrating hawks. After 25 years of annual research efforts, HWI decided to end their monitoring at the Chelan Ridge site. In a press release on the hawkwatch.org website, Executive Director Nikki Wayment cited limited funding as the reason for the decision.
The Birdcast migration dashboard at https://birdcast.info/ uses weather satellite data to observe nocturnal bird migration by county. According to the dashboard, almost a million migrating birds flew over Okanogan County on Sept. 7 between 7:30 p.m. and 6:20 a.m. At the peak of midnight, listen for the rush of wings.