Birding with Neil

Periodically I am asked if I am really friends with Neil Gaiman. Yes, I am really am. And to prove it, I took Neil up for a day of hawk watching around Duluth, MN to experience the thrill of thousands of migrating birds of prey. First we stopped at my friend Frank Taylor’s hawk blind to band migrating hawks and then we headed to Hawk Ridge. Many don't know this, but Neil is quite the birder and has a way with passerines (note Neil with the song sparrow on the left).

Neil sits in the hawk blind to help watch for hawks flying over the field. There were a couple of times when he confused blue jays with sharp-shinned hawks but he got the hang of it before the end of the day.

We banded a passage female merlin. She graciously posed for a photo with Neil before continuing on with her migration.

Neil meets some pigeons at the banding station—all of whom never get harmed by hawks during banding due to protective leather jackets and expert handling by hawk banders. He tried to chat with them about their adventures, but being pigeons they were hesitant to speak of their exploits.

After a morning full of banding we stopped at Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve. Neil took a look at the daily totals. He was most excited about seeing a Northern Goshawk and agreed with me that, goshawks are hands down the coolest North American raptor.

The banders at Hawk Ridge got in a Red-eyed Vireo—which are surprisingly aggressive and try to bite anybody. It’s okay because they are insectivores and have soft bills and don’t hurt so much when the bite. This one took a break from nipping for a photo with Neil.

A rare appearance by a Golden-crowned Kinglet at the Hawk Ridge banding station made for a special day. Neil graciously accepted a kiss from this secretive bird.

A fellow birder, Reier decides to make Neil feel like a true bird watcher by making fun of him. This is a good sign that Neil is being embraced by the birding community.

Before the day was done we found a huge mushroom. It reminded me of a smurf house. I wanted to see what it tasted like, but Neil smartly recommended we shouldn’t eat mushrooms we aren’t sure of.

Well hopefully this answers the question of just how well I know Neil Gaiman.