A day in Duluth

The lake was angry today my friends. It was chilly and breezy along Lake Superior today in Duluth, but it's late October and in the 30 degree range, what do I expect? There were surfers taking advantage of the waves--and Non Birding Bill thinks I'm nuts for sitting in a box a dark box watching hawks fly by.

Hawks were moving fast and high today. We only got two in the nets, but what we lacked in quantity, we made for in quality--a passage goshawk and a haggard red-tailed hawk. We got the red-tailed hawk in first, early in the morning. We were watching three high in a thermal and at one point each of us was watching a different bird. As one person was saying, "Okay, this one is turning, it's going to come in" another got caught in the net. It was a gorgeous adult with a beautiful rusty red tail, and according to foot size he was a male (pictured right). Interesting was that he had an odd growth on his gape on the lower mandible. The growth looked like a skin tab and grew straight up, like some weird yellow tooth. Who knows what caused it, but the bird has obviously been surviving quite well for years so we let it go after banding it.

The goshawk was a lot of work to get in the net. What is the world coming to when a northern goshawk doesn't come straight for the net with a slight yank of a pigeon. At this particular banding station, we face an open field and can see birds coming for miles. Typically, when a goshawk comes on the field, they make a bee line for the nets but this bird kept doodling along starting to thermalize then getting out of it. Finally it went off to the right up against the tree line. We started to watch for other hawks, but kept half an eye out to the right on the off chance the goshawk came down the tree line towards the net. I looked out the right and there it was like a bird dark rain drop. "It's coming!" I whispered excitedly and it zoomed over the top of the blind, just above the nets and down on the pigeon--we could hear the air passing through the wings. Rick masterfully yanked the pigeon at the last second so it avoided the goshawk's talons. The goshawk landed with a thunk and then leapt up to take off, only to bounce straight into the front net. The pigeon somehow landed in the back net. That's the young goshawk above, the little male kind of reminds me of Sam the Eagle from the Muppets.

Red-breasted nuthatches were crawling all over the trees and the woods sounded like they were chock full of little squeak toys. I meandered into the woods a little bit to see if any small owls were lurking in the trees. Sometimes when my mind is wandering as I walk through the woods, I go on autopilot and absentmindedly pish. As I did this today I felt an odd sensation--I was completely surrounded by red-breasted nuthatches, black-capped chickadees, brown creepers and white-breasted nuthatches. The red-breasteds were within two feet, was I being stalked...or mobbed.

Another sign of winter was all the snow buntings on the sides of the roads (pictured right). I do love those guys. I tried to digiscope them, but I didn't spend as much time on them as I liked, there were some strange people on the side of the road and my scope and camera set up seemed to irk them so I took my birding elsewhere.