I finally got to spend a day at the hawk blind! This fall has just been CRAZY and I've barely had time to enjoy my favorite part of birding (hawk migration) but I finally had a chance to participate in some hawk banding today. I headed up to Duluth Saturday after a signing with Stan at the Wildlife Science Center (a very cool place by the way--you can have a birthday party with wolves). Well, I was so unfocused I forgot to book a hotel room and decided that rather than stopping from motel to hotel to look for vacancies I would just bunk it with the boys out in the field. Rick was kind enough to offer the back of his truck and Frank was kind enough to offer a sleeping bag. I had plenty of clothes, spare blankets and a pillow in my car and thought this would be what Opie Taylor would call "adventure sleepin'" (you can see my cozy little bed pictured above). It was only supposed to be in the low fifties maybe upper forties so I figured I would be warm enough. Not only that, I had a flask of 15 year old scotch with me just in case I got cold...or couldn't sleep.
The hard part getting to sleep was being distracted by all the outside sounds. I could hear night migrants overhead and that always sends chills down my spine. Then at some point someone in a truck drove by the field with a large flood light, I assume they were shining deer. Other than that it was a pleasant night outdoors snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag listening to the sounds of Duluth.
The trapping was slim pickins'. The winds were pushing the hawks up so high they weren't interested in coming down to the nets and at this point adults start passing through and they are more difficult to get into the nets than the first year birds. We got two hawks in the nets today, one was a passage female merlin. We placed a band her and released her (pictured right). After I snapped the photo, she dropped down and bounced off my arm and headed for the woods, but not without giving us a little merlin shriek before she was out of sight. I wonder if it's good luck to have a merlin ricochette off of you?
Our second bird in the net was a passage female sharp-shin--Oh! She had a really cool flight. Frank and I were watching it high in the sky and it started a straight dive down at a small bird then stopped half way and continued in our direction, but still quite high. As it was right over the blind, Rick pulled the pigeon and it did a straight stoop down! You could see the landing gear (legs) position right in front of the face, locking the talons on the target. Then just mere feet overhead, it dodged and darted from side to side to slow down and not smashing into the ground and in an instant it was in the nets! A really great flight into the net really makes up for a slow bird day.
Since the birds were slow, we closed down the banding station early and Amber, Reier and I headed to Hawk Ridge. It was surprisingly busy, which is good because Hawk Ridge needs all the support it can get. I was so excited, they had shirts--shirts that fit women and don't make us look like shapeless bags of potatoes! So ladies if you are looking for a bird shirt that won't add ten pounds to your figure, get a Hawk Ridge V-Neck. They appear to be available in gray, white or pink.
They wern't getting too many hawks in at their banding station, but they did get some cool passerines into the nets including a golden-crowned kinglet and a red-eyed vireo (left).
Well, this has to be the end of the entry--there's just tons of freaks on TLC tonight. First it's "Face Eating Tumor" followed by "I Am My Own Twin" and to top it off " 101 Things Removed From The Human Body". Now that's what I call quality tv, and it has be educational if it's on The Learning Channel.