Another Day at Hawk Ridge


If I were the type of person who needed to call in sick to work, I would totally be taking sick days on Tuesday through Thursday this because it's been nothing but southeast winds at
Hawk Ridge in Duluth right now (the worst for hawk watching) and according to Weather Underground Tuesday afternoon they are supposed to switch to northwest winds (the BEST for hawk watching) and stay that way at least until at least Thursday. Hawk watching hasn't been too spectacular so far so I bet on Tuesday afternoon, all hell will break loose.


I spent this past Saturday helping Kim Risen and Ed Colosky with their day trip to Hawk Ridge. It was kind of a last minute decision for me to go otherwise I would have put the word out on the blog.

This was my favorite moment of Saturday. All of these kids were on the bust to go hawk watching. What could possibly have them so enthralled? A Hawk Ridge Naturalist was about to unveil a sharp-shinned hawk that was netted at the banding station:

There's a wealth of information that can be gained from banding birds, but when you open it to the public, this is where the real value comes in. Look at the faces of all of those kids, they are totally getting interested in birds. There is our future, ladies and gentlemen. The more kids we get excited about birds, bet better chance those kids will be interested in keeping those birds around in the future.

Many of the kids got to hold hawks or release them throughout the whole day. It takes me back to the first time I got to touch a sharp-shinned hawk (like the one pictured above in the very capable hands of Laura). That was a life changing experience and still is in the top five moments of my life. I remember thinking how incredibly lucky I was to touch a creature in the middle of a long migratory journey.

Here is young Trevor letting a recently banded sharp-shinned hawk go, continuing on its journey south.

We did have just about the worst possible weather for our bird trip to Hawk Ridge (the only thing that would have made it worse was pouring down rain) but we fortunate enough to get some great fall color and beautiful views from Hawk Ridge. I kept telling everyone that even though the weather was not promising, there was still a chance for great birds: cloudy days at Hawk Ridge are almost a guarantee for peregrine falcons. While I was taking a group on the Summit Overlook trail I heard a distant shout: "Peregrine Falcon!" We looked up and sure enough there was a peregrine right overhead!!

We did have a couple of programs for our tour group to watch and I have to say if you are at Hawk Ridge and a woman named Willow is about to give a presentation, pay attention. This chick is REALLY good at giving programs! She wowed our audience and did a great job of making sure everyone understood what she was talking about. What really separates her from the rest of the pack is her passion for the subject. I don't know how long Williow will be at Hawk Ridge, but it wouldn't surprise me if in years to come we see her on a list of great birders.

Another highlight of the day was seeing a Franklin's ground squirrel. Which we did see, almost as many as we did of hawks for the day.

They were able to bring a couple of birds out from the banding station so the day wasn't a total wash. I was glad about that, I really wanted the kids to get a chance to see the birds up close.

At the end of the day the group was tuckered out. Here is Sam, the youngest member of our group who behaved really well all day and slept almost all the way back to the Twin Cities.

Don't forget that this coming weekend is the official Hawk Weekend at Hawk Ridge and tons of people will be up. I'll be there selling calendars, official birdchick shirts and subscriptions to NatureScape News. If you're up there Saturday and Sunday stop over and say "hi!". If not, try to get up sometime mid week to watch those broad-winged hawks move through.