Weekend Of Red-tails

Sometimes, it's fun to live in our neighborhood. Oh sure, there are noisy neighbors, but there are benefits. Twice in the last week I have seen Sir Ian McKellen, once behind me line at the grocery store and tonight on our way to the movie theater (he's in town performing King Lear at the Guthrie). I didn't say anything at the grocery store, but tonight when I pointed him out to Non Birding Bill, he went over, greeted him and told him how much he enjoyed his work as an actor. He was really, really nice and very gracious. Can I say how much I enjoy just picking him out in the streets among all the other people? It's like finding a Ross's goose mixed in with a bunch of snow geese.

On to hawk banding!

Here's the man who makes my weekends of hawk banding possible--Frank Taylor! One of the coolest guys I know and the man who taught me to handle birds of prey and to give an entertaining yet informative program.

Well, it was a weekend chock full of red-tiled hawks at the banding station (that's a passage or first year red-tailed hawk in the above photo). On Saturday we got 7 birds (1 northern goshawk and 6 red-tailed hawks) and on Sunday we got 8 birds on (1 sharp-shinned hawk, 1 northern goshawk and 6 red-tailed hawks).

I think of all the birding things I do throughout the year, hawk banding is my favorite. I love everything about it, the fall foliage, the layers of cold to ward of the chill in the air, the waxy chocolate donuts we eat in the blind, watching the birds fly in, picking our raptors from the specks flying away.

We got to see some other wildlife besides raptors. We heard the crows going berserk on the other side of the field. Eventually, a coyote came into view. Rick Dupont got the above photo. They coyote kept coming closer and closer. Every time someone's camera beeped, the coyote would look right at us. Even with the wind blew and they coyote turned to sniff, if a camera beeped, it looked towards the blind. The coyote kept on its merry way and disappeared and suddenly as it appeared, followed by some noisy crows.

We even had a lone raven meander towards the blind. We watched this bird for the better part of Saturday morning, walking along through the grass snatching up lethargic grasshoppers. Periodically, the raven would hunker in the grass and sleep. After awhile, the raven would resume hunting grasshoppers. It worked its way closer and closer to the blind, oblivious to the many red-tails zooming over head, the half dozen people popping out of the blind, and even the noisy goshawk. When I watched it through my scope, it blinked both eyes in quick succession and not always at the same time. I've seen birds with West Nile Virus do this and wondered if that had struck this raven. The bird would let people get within 10 feet of it and then would fly. It had an ample food source and was wise enough to evade humans, so we didn't make too much effort to catch it.

There were also quite a few horned larks lurking in the grass. It was fun to watch them disappear and then reappear. A couple of northern shrikes hunting in the field would try to separate one of the larks to catch it, but to no avail, the larks were too fast. Another bird that hung out near the blind was a boreal chickadee. A small flock of black-caps flew in and one of them sounded a little nasally--instead of chickadee dee dee it was more of a chickashneeee. It hung out low in the trees and I got one of my best looks at one (alas, I didn't have the digiscoping equipment set up).

Even though we had almost all red-tailed hawks come in, each one had an interesting story. Like this bird. It was in haggard (adult) plumage, complete with red-tail (although the eyes were kind of half passage, half haggard). Note the blood mustache over the bill--this bird had eaten fairly recently. However, it did one of the most powerful dives into the nets I had ever seen. We actually almost missed this bird coming in. We were kind of chit chatting, someone had asked me a binocular question and looked out the blind window and said, "Well, 8x42's are good GASP..." and most everyone else saw it at the same time straight ahead, wings tucked, the bird going over 60 miles straight for the pigeon.

The red-tail blasted through the front net so fast and so hard it went all the way into the back net! Frank and Rick had to get the hawk out of two nets! Rick, ever the master yanker, did manage to pull the pigeon out of the way before the hawk nailed it. I did get to thinking though--if the nets hadn't been there, and this hawk was hunting the pigeon, it would have hit the prey so hard it would have blasted right into the woods. It would have rolled and tumbled and maybe slammed into a tree. That bird was intense. It wasn't skinny either, it had been eating well.

It's always interesting to see the differences in adults and young birds when you have the up close. Even without seeing the tail, you can know this is a young bird by how yellow the eyes are. Red-tailed hawk eyes get darker as they get older. So, above is passage red-tail...

and here is a haggard bird--look at how dark brown those eyes are! Speaking eyes, one of Frank's sub banders was up the whole week banding hawks and found an interesting one:

Chuck Schotzko got in this one eyed red-tailed hawk. Look at that, the whole entire eye ball is missing from the socket! Chuck is a medical doctor and guess with how dried out and healed up the injury is that this happened long ago, perhaps even when the bird was young. He speculated that this happened with the bird was young, even in the nest. It would be much easier for a young bird to learn to hunt with only one eye, than for an adult to suddenly lose an eye after hunting for years with two. Regardless, the bird was very chunky, the tissue around the keel was very plump--this bird had been eating well. If it can fly and is a good weight, there's no need to take it some place like The Raptor Center, this bird is doing just fine on its own.

Here you can see clear back into the empty eye socket. This really makes me wonder about birds in wildlife rehab facilities with only one eye that are turned into education birds or euthanized. This is the second red-tail we've gotten into the nets with vision in only one eye that was fat and sassy. Birds always remind me that they are more resilient than we give them credit for.

On Saturday night, I slept in Frank's van. He has a cot set up inside, so all I had to do was unroll my sleeping bag. I brought a pillow and stuck some hand warmers in the bottom to keep my toe warm. The stars crowded the skies and I was tucked warmly inside my sleeping bag and watched the sky. I was only disturbed once when someone drove slowly by shining a very bright flash light (I assume looking for deer). I set my iPod and iMainGo speaker to alarm so that I would wake up the next morning to the sound of bobolinks. I met Frank and his wife Trudi in their cozy trailer for hot chocolate and donuts, then it was off to more banding. It is nice to stay in hotels, but I have to say that I'm glad that I still have it in me to sleep in a van and use the woods for a restroom all for a cool birding experience!

This is one of the many red-tails we got in on Sunday, note the blood stains on the breast? This bird totally punk'd me! We were watching it in the distance and it hovered, it held its wings in a v-shape, the wings looked longish--I called it a rough-legged hawk. Until it flew into the nets and showed itself to be a juvenile red-tail. Later on, I tried to turn a kestrel into a merlin--I was having an off identification day. Maybe sleeping in a van dulls my bird id skills. Ah well, happens to all of us.

I did find a red squirrel lurking in the trees. It was surprisingly quiet. I suppose it noticed all the hawks flying in and decided that hunkering down and eating would be a sensible tactic instead of chirping and drawing attention to itself.

After we banded and released one of the many red-tailed hawks that came into the nets, it landed in the top of a spruce. As I set up my digiscoping equipment, it started to take off and I got this photo. But my favorite photos to get are the ones of me laying on the ground while people release the birds:

Like this...

Or this...

And this...

This was a little boy who got to release a red-tail. Since he was a tad short, I opted to take his photo from the side. The last thing I want is a face full of red-tailed hawk. He did a great job doing the release--that's a lot of bird for young boy.

I love this photo, that little boy looks like he's about to go into the sky along with the red-tail!

Gratuitous Goshawk

At first when I was looking at my schedule and budget for the fall, I was worried I just wouldn't be able to get to my friend Frank Taylor's hawk banding station--my favorite bird activity I do all year. I was very down that I would not get to see a northern goshawk (my favorite raptor and next tattoo) fly into the nets But thanks to help from my great friends, I managed two trips. And I got to see a first year northern goshawk fly in! Whoot!

Frank asked me to hold the young goshawk so he could get photos and I gave my camera to a wonderful woman I've been getting to know at the blind named Joan. We were working as swiftly as possible with the goshawk so we could send it on its way.

Why would we want this magnificent bird away so quickly? Because the moment it hits the nets to the very second it is released, it give a loud, piercing, melt-your-eardrums shriek over and over and over. All we're doing is holding it, it's not in any pain what so ever. Such a big bird, such a big whiner. Even the smaller cousins of this accipiter, the sharp-shinned hawk and the Cooper's hawk take the banding process with stoicism. Frank wanted to try and get a photo of the goshawk with its mouth closed--not an easy feat.

I think this photo that Joan got about sums it up. Yes, here I am with my favorite raptor and you can see that I'm clearly thinking, "Are we done yet? Can we move on?" I bet you're now curious, just how awful this sound is, aren't you? Okay, here is about five seconds of ear-splitting goshawk (those you cannot view video should be grateful):

Annoying, huh? As if that weren't bad enough...

The goshawk started attacking my coat. It was time to set this bird free and continue on its way.

I tossed the bird in the air and Joan got this great shot which actually looks like the bird is reaching out to attack me. Actually, what's going on is that I tossed the goshawk out to the field, but being the type of hawk that hunts in the woods, the bird is turning around in mid air so it can fly into the safety of the trees behind me. Still, I love how it looks like I'm reaching out it and the goshawk looks like it is going to nail me.

More banding fun to come!

Frank Taylor's Banding Report


I'm kind of bummed, I just got Frank's banding report for his hawk banding station for last weekend and the end of the report reminded all of us on the list that this coming weekend is the last weekend he will be banding--and I can't go! That means I will only have been to his place once this year. How did Autumn get away from me? This happened a little bit last fall.

Mental Note for 2007: Leave more time for Frank's banding station in the fall!

I shouldn't complain too much, the reason I can't go to Frank's this weekend is that I'm going to that legendary North American birding hot spot: Cape May Autumn Weekend.

Take a look at the red-tailed hawk photo at the top of this entry. That's a photo I took a couple of years ago at the station, but look at the pupils. Those are normal red-tailed hawk pupils. Now, take a look at the photo Frank took of a red-tailed hawk they got last weekend at the banding station:


Frank wrote, "We caught a passage (first year) Red-tail with both pupils slightly deformed. Chuck gave it the Doctor’s eye inspection and said he thought that both eyes were functioning properly." Chuck is a doctor and one of Frank's sub-banders. Even if the eyes weren't functioning properly, I'm not sure what could have been done. If the pupils are deformed, you can't really do a transplant and the bird would have to be put down. I wonder if the bird sees in double or if images are a little blurry? Can this bird find ways to hunt with this odd vision? It would have hatched at least six months ago and has been surviving and compensating somehow. So much discovered, and yet so many questions are left.

Besides the usual raptors, Frank also got in several passerines--without a bird feeder guiding them in, must be a good spot for birds passing through:


Here's a hairy woodpecker photo that Frank took.


Here's a blue jay photo from Frank. Blue jays are always hanging around the blind looking for left over pigeon chow. One year there was a blue jay that could mimic a broad-winged hawk. It was almost a perfect, except that the blue jay did it a little faster than an actual broad-wing...and you could hear the call well into October when we no longer have broad-winged hawks in Minnesota.


Here's an adult eastern bluebird that found its way into the nets as well. Isn't that just beautiful? I swear I have seen that exact same color scheme in a spring sunrise. Look at how the rust coloration works its way from the breast into the upper wing coverts and scapulars (shoulder feathers).



So, I almost got clotheslined by a Cooper's hawk today! Above we have Jane Goggin, one of the many fabulous vets at The Raptor Center. We didn't have any programs scheduled for my shift today so our crew asked if we could watch Jane and Lori (one of the other fabulous vets) test fly one of the 13 Cooper's hawks still in clinic (that's down from 24--it's been a record year).


We followed Jane and Lori and stood behind them as they released the immature female Cooper's. The bird had recovered from its injury and has been test flown by the volunteer flight crew (after birds have recovered from their injury they go through this to build up their muscles). Lori and Jane go out and test fly the birds to determine if the flight therapy is working and to see if the bird's flight is strong enough for release. The bird is attached to a creance (a really long leash attached to the ankles so it can fly but not get away yet). The bird took off well in front of Lori and Jane.


Then she suddenly banked and headed straight for some spruce trees off to my right. At that point she figured out the creance was going to prevent that and she turned on a dime towards me coming up fast on my right. About two seconds after I took the above photo, I realized the creance line was heading straight towards me at about neck level. I hit the ground and heard Jane and Lori yell, "Duck! Quick!" towards the rest of our crew. I heard the line zip over and lifted my head to see the rest of the crew on the ground.

Fortunately, no one was injured and I think it's safe to say that this particular female Cooper's hawk is ready to go off in the wild with moves like that!


Someone emailed how I get the release shots that I posted last week. Above is a photo I took of Chuck releasing a merlin.


Here is the same scene taken by Rick Dupont of me getting the above shot of Chuck releasing the merlin.

Tale of Tails

Note: A contest of diabolical proportions is on its way. I planned on doing it today but A: loading photos in Blogger is wonky at the moment and B: Non Birding Bill informed me that he is transferring the whole birdchick website to a new server and it might be hard to find the site on Friday. So, I'm going to postpone the contest to Monday. I'd do it over the weekend, but I think some readers only have internet access at work. The prize is a much coveted autographed Letters From Eden. Now, on to red-tailed hawks!

Here we have a haggard (adult) red-tailed hawk--obvious by the rusty red tail. There is another way that you can judge adults from passage birds (first year hawks).

Here is an adult red-tailed hawk's eyes--note the dark brown eyes.

Here is a first year red-tail. Note the pale yellow eyes? Red-tailed hawks start off with pale eyes and they get darker as they get older.

Sometimes at the banding station we get birds in transition. This bird had a rust red tail but note the eyes. The top half is pale, the bottom half is dark, the bird is at least two years old, maybe three. I'm not sure if you can age red-tails exactly by the eye color. They used to say you could with sharp-shins and Cooper's hawks but someone blew that theory out of the water a few years ago.

Here's a red-tail that we got on Sunday that was a dilly of a pickle. It has a pale eye and a mostly brown tail. What is up with those four red tail feathers?

Frank speculated that when this bird was in the nest, one of the nest mates grabbed the tail and the feathers got pulled out. When a bird has a feather pulled out, a new feather starts to grow. The feathers in that spot are programmed the first time to grow in brown and stripey. Since that had already happened, the new feathers grew in red...and a little stripey because the bird is still in its first year.

Speaking of red-tailed hawks I had a fun coincidence at the banding station on Monday. Over the weekend a comment came in from Michael Paulbeck asking for luck because he was visiting a hawk blind. Little did he know he was going to be at the exact same blind I was at. Here he is holding a raptor for the first time. Congrats, Mike!

Generally Awesome Birding In Duluth

Duluth was just unbelievably gorgeous this past weekend. I was surprised that there were still so many leaves on the trees. I bundled up right now. I'm thinking back to last Friday when the temps were pushing 80 degrees in the Twin Cities and less than a week later I see snow flurries out of my window as I type this blog entry.

I had so much fun with my family this weekend. Here is my mom and Terri looking at a female merlin while sitting in the blind.
My favorite place to stay in Duluth, when not sleeping in my car is the Inn on Gitche Gumee. Each room has a theme and gorgeous view of Lake Superior and the enormous garden. The garden attracts a whole host of birds and during migration, it fun to sit on the deck with some coffee, wine or scotch and watch eagles, peregrines, gulls and warblers pass over. Some nights you can even hear night migrants chipping overhead.

The Inn is owned by Butch and Julie and Butch made all the bed frames, I loved the birch frame that was in one of our rooms. My mom and sisters love it and insist on staying here when they visit.

There's a trail behind the Inn that connects with other trails and if you follow it, you find this odd little natural art landscape. Rocks are stacked on each other, dead trees are planted upside down, etc. Its kind of Blair Witch Project/fairy land all in one.

I took my sisters back there and when Monica snapped this photo of Terri an orb showed up in the photo...ghost or fairy?

I had one of those "magical bird guide" moments. As we continued on the trail I told my sisters that sometimes you see grouse along her (meaning at some point in time over the years that I have been here, I once flushed a grouse). Two minutes later I found a grouse sitting about eye level in a balsam--I have never found a grouse before I flushed it. Monica and Terri got a great look and even got to watch it fly away.

Gray jays are EVERYWHERE in Duluth right now. I have never seen so many. There have been several reports on the MN bird listservs and there was a flock hanging around the Inn and at the banding station. I pished this one in and Monica got a photo. They look like chickadees on steroids.

Here is a photo of Frank, Monica and Terri. I was really proud of Monica for going in the woods with me (literally and figuratively). She's not an outdoors type at all. Frank has been banding for over 37 years (longer than they have been banding at Hawk Ridge). He studies peregrines (he loves, loves, loves the peregrine falcon) and also studies what color of pigeons are more attractive to raptors--does color make a difference, and he also studies ways of using pigeons humanely so they do not get injured in the process of attracting hawks. He is a master bander and is in very good standing with US Fish and Wildlife. Frank has a huge raptor background. When I started at The Raptor Center he was the Curator of Birds and taught me how to handle raptors and give programs. His enthusiasm for raptors and their conservation is infectious. All of his research is turned in at the end of the season and can be accessed through US Fish and Wildlife.

Sunday was such perfect weather we got in 41 birds to the station! We were behind the blind when I took this photo and they had just taken those two sharp-shinned hawks out of the net. My sister Terri was there when one of the banders shouted "Freeze!" Another hawk was spotted and was heading for the nets. I got this photo of Terri and I love it, she looks so excited to be there while none of us were supposed to move.

Someone asked earlier in the comments if we are worried about the birds biting us. Small hawks like sharp-shinned hawks don't pack too much of a punch with their bill. If you go to Hawk Ridge, they will bring out sharpies and the naturalists will happily show you how much the bite doesn't hurt.

The talons really are the business end of the bird. We had so many birds all at once--I think at this point there were 7 or 8 that we got in a row, we gave one to Terri to hold and she got nailed by one of the talons (the claws on the end of the toes). Terri was very excited to be footed.

Here the photo of the bird that footed Terri, a passage sharp-shinned hawk. This is no poor little bird, this is a strong creature that can take a few minutes at a banding station and live to hunt and produce future generations.

Merlins on the other hand to pack a wallop in their bite. Falcons have sharper bills than other raptors and they can really slice up your hand. With merlins (or any falcon) you mind the talons as well as the bill.

Red-tailed hawk talons are not only sharp, but have one heck of a grip so you really, really watch yourself around one of these. I regret to say that years ago I got footed by an education red-tail and it was not fun and oh so painful--I'll save that story for another day. Red-tail bills aren't very sharp, but they are bigger and more blunt so I would recommend having the bill too close to your nose.

Before I headed home I stopped at Hawk Ridge to take a quick walk on one of the trails-- the Summit Overlook or "yellow dot trail" is my favorite. While there I heard a hairy woodpecker, it was working dead balsam about six feet in front of me. When it caught me watching it, the bird flew to another tree further away. I proceeded on the trail towards the tree and then I heard another woodpecker chip that was not a hairy coming from the same tree only higher. I whipped out my Handheld Birds from by back pocket, went to woodpeckers and clicked on the species I thought it was. I played the call and that confirmed:

I was hearing a black-backed woodpecker. I pished and the bird flew down from the tree to just above eye level for me. I was able to get the above photo without my binoculars, I was that close. What a great way to top off a great birding weekend. Hawk Ridge is a fairly reliable spot for black-backs but this is hands down the best look I have ever had of one.

When it finished, I went over and took pictures of the scaling the bird was engaged in. Funny, I was never interested in scaling before Arkansas.

Raptor Releases For Your Viewing Pleasure

This is a photo of my sisters Terri (left) and Monica (right) releasing two sharp-shinned hawks. I love Monica, she looks like she just made a touchdown.

More sharp-shins being released.

Multiple sharp-shinned hawks being released.

Another sharp-shin.

Oooooooooo, haggard red-tailed hawk being released. Sweeeeeet.

And yet, another sharp-shin heading to the wild blue yonder.

More shins...wait, one of these things is not like the others...any guessers?

A passage red-tail. There's actually a second shin being released behind it, you can see its wing poking down behind the red-tail.

Me releasing a merlin.

Hawk Banding Basics

Blogger is still acting strange, so the updates will come as blogger allows them--I've been working on this post from 1pm - 4:30pm trying to upload photos--grrrrrrrrrr. I think the first post should be a little note on banding and terminology before the onslaught of adventures.

I LOVE bird banding and especially hawk banding. For a few minutes, I get a glimpse into the life of different birds that make their way into the nets. This photo above is pretty much what I think my version of heaven will be when I die--beautiful fall colors, dark storm clouds behind them, a chill in the air and a bird so close I can smell it. Either I can handle the bird or the bird can handle me, I don't care so as long as those ingredients are there.

Banding migrating raptors is different than some of the other banding that you see here like songbirds or banding young birds in the nest. Like songbird banding where nets are set up around a feeding station, migrating raptors are attracted by bait--typically in the form of non native North American species like pigeons, starlings and house sparrows. What I really like about Frank's blind is that he uses only one pigeon that is heavily protected by a leather jacket. Also, the pigeon is on a tether and gets yanked out of the way of the oncoming raptors--much the same way rabbits and hares jump straight up to avoid hawks and eagles. Frank has been banding over 37--even before they started banding at Hawk Ridge. His blind is several miles away from the Hawk Ridge station and from time to time you can find some of the HR banders hanging at Frank's to relax or drop off injured birds for us to take to The Raptor Center.

Frank sometimes has nature clubs or small school groups up to his station. It's a fabulous way for kids to watch the different hunting techniques of different types of raptors. What's amazing is that some species like sharp-shinned hawks are SO focused on the pigeon that they will come right into the net with six people milling around outside the nets (that doesn't work for eagles or red-tailed hawks). The first time I ever touched a hawk was such an unbelievable rush and really solidified my interest in birds, I think it's an incredible teaching tool. Any person that visits Frank's blind never leaves without a huge appreciation and respect for raptors and many are just plain stunned saying: "I touched a hawk!"

You also get the chance to see similar sized species up close. Can you id these two different species--no prize, just for fun.

The raptors have their wings and tails measured, get fitted with a band and then are on their way. Birds are rarely with us longer than 15 minutes. When you think about what a bird will do on an average day--this is very small part of their life. These birds will fight to the death for nesting habitat, dive and kill prey the same size they are, migrate thousands of miles--15 minutes in a banding station is child's play compared to what they really do to survive. (Don't believe me, check this and this.) I think many of them leave thinking, "I put on a show of how fierce I was around those gigantic greasy primates and I got away without being eaten. Am I bad or what!"

A few things to know about raptors--first year birds (birds hatched this year) are called passage birds. Also the marks on the breast are vertical. The above bird would be called a passage sharp-shinned hawk.

Raptors that are over a year old are haggard birds. Also, the barring on the feathers tends to be horizontal. So besides having the color on the back change from brown to blue, the chest barring go from brown to rust and the eyes go from yellow to red this bird also has horizontal barring making it a haggard sharp-shinned hawk.

Females are LARGER than males. Barb Walker is holding the same species in the above photos. These are both haggard sharp-shinned hawks--can you tell which one is the female? In accipiters, the size difference is much more obvious than in buteos. I guess it's safe to say that male sharp-shins like a female with back.

Okay, hopefully blogger can fix the photo issue and more updates are coming.

Just In

I just got in. Here is a preview--this was one of the best birding times I've had in a while--great birds around every turn. I must eat, check the email which I haven't seen since Friday, read up on the Big Sit and see if NBB actually put in any blog updates over the weekend.

I just got this photo in email from Frank. From left to right we have my sisters Terri and Monica, my Mom, Frank Taylor holding a sharp-shinned hawk and me...wearing a fabulous Pish Off shirt. Hm, that shirt is so fetching, I wonder where I got it? Frank is so awesome, he makes sure everyone enjoys the birds, is constantly educating and I would not be the raptor presenter I am today if it weren't for his training. I think my mom hit the nail on the head when she said, "If God had a refrigerator, Frank Taylor's picture would be hanging on it."

Awesome Sunday At Hawk Ridge

Saturday at Hawk Ridge:

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday At Hawk Ridge:


...hawks, northwest winds, fair temperatures, shining sun--all the things that make hawk watching special.

I helped out at the NatureScape News selling subscriptions and issues and the table became a catch all table for everybody. I was selling shirts and calendars (shirts were a hit to men and women of all ages), and Rick Bowers helped at the table too and was on hand to autograph his books (that's him above with his massive camera, Mammal Guide and shearwater head--I geeked out a little...okay, I geeked out a lot) and BirderBlog hung out and sold some of her books including her new book 101 Ways to Help Birds.

The Eagle Optics table was right next to ours so I got to see my good friend Katie. And, per WildBird on the Fly's request:

The odd thing is that we have Katie here kissing a dehydrated shearwater head and she's healthy, while I came down with some nasty intestinal bug last night that still has not quite left me. Curse you, hot-pepper-wild-rice bratwurst, and everything you stand for! At least I hope that's what it is, I haven't felt this bad since I lived with that party-animal of a parasite, giardia. I really don't want to go through that again. But enough about my digestive problems, you read this blog for birds so:

Look at this beautiful adult sharp-shinned hawk, taking a brief stop in its journey to educate the crowd about migration. They're so pretty when they grow up.

Here are the new counters at Hawk Ridge this year Corrie and Sue. Look at that--they are women--fun and intelligent women too. Paging Kevin Karlson, here are some hot up and coming women should you ever consider doing another list for WildBird. When it's not so busy, I plan on going out for a beer and learning more about them. It's hard to talk and get to know them during the peak of broad-wing migration, they're a little preoccupied. They did request that the next time I'm up that I bring Cinnamon, they really want to be disapproved of.

There was a whole lotta releasin' going on at the Ridge, since they were getting so many sharp-shins at the banding station.

I got some great shots of some of the releases:

Here we have an excited little girl releasing a shin that ended up veering through a surprised audience. Sharp-shins are an accipiter and are well known for their ability to dart around objects quickly and for short super fast bursts of speed. Here's an up close view of the above photo of the shin going through the audience:

Looking at where Hawk Ridge Education Director Debbie Waters has her camera aimed, was she fast enough to get the young sharpie flying away?

This is my favorite photo. There's a sharpie being released right above everyone's head. Here's a closer view:

I wonder if this guy got his photo and even better yet, look at the excited little boy below and behind him.